Report: Al-Rahi Cancels Visit to Washington Over Paris Remarks Controversy
The trip of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi to the U.S. will be limited to a visit to the Lebanese community there after the prelate held onto his stances made in France, Ad-Diyar daily reported Sunday.
The newspaper said that al-Rahi will not meet with top U.S. officials in Washington after he told U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly that he held onto his remarks on Hizbullah’s arms and the situation in Syria.
Connelly reportedly told the patriarch that he needed to provide explanations on his statements before setting dates with U.S President Barack Obama and other officials.
But al-Rahi snapped back by cancelling his visit to Washington. The patriarch might visit New York for talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, Ad-Diyar said.
Al-Rahi has linked the fate of Hizbullah’s arms to the withdrawal of Israel from the remaining occupied Lebanese territories. He has also expressed fears on the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Syria saying President Bashar Assad should be given the chance to introduce reform.
Ad-Diyar’s report came after a Western diplomatic source told Naharnet that the U.S. administration believes it is al-Rahi’s right to express the concerns and aspirations of his community during this period.
“But it is looking forward to understanding his vision and the vision of those he represents with regard to addressing these concerns on the basis of a future perspective and common vision with all those concerned domestically and internationally about helping the peoples of the region to achieve freedom, democracy, stability and prosperity,” the source clarified.
“According to this approach, the U.S. administration welcomes what it believes will be a primarily pastoral visit Patriarch al-Rahi will make to the Maronites in the U.S., and welcomes a constructive dialogue on how the Christian community can move forward in supporting the aspirations of the peoples of the region,” the diplomat added.
Asked if al-Rahi may meet with high-ranking U.S. officials such as Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the source replied: “The United States looks forward to constructive dialogue with the Patriarch.”