Lebanon president to reconvene national dialogue

Lebanon president to reconvene national dialogue
Wed Jul 17, 2013 11:07:12

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman says he planned to reconvene "national dialogue" among rival political factions in order to reassert commitment to the “Baabda Declaration” amid deep national divisions over the bloody conflict in Syria.

He also urged the March 8 and March 14 parties to facilitate Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s mission in forming a new Cabinet by not imposing conditions for their participation in the government.

Speaking at the annual iftar banquet he hosted at the Baabda Palace for the country’s top political and religious leaders on Tuesday, Sleiman slammed the feuding parties for trading accusations of treason and threats.

“Speeches have put most of the Lebanese communities against each other, adding the term of treason and threats to the rhetoric,” Sleiman said. He added that while an inter-Lebanese dialogue was stalled, “some conflicting groups got involved in military actions on both sides of the border [with Syria].”

He said last week’s car bombing in the Hezbollah stronghold of Bir al-Abed in Beirut’s southern suburbs that wounded 54 people was “a worrying alarm bell” that should prompt all leaders to act to safeguard the country’s unity and future.

“Being aware of the pressing need to rebuild mutual confidence among the parties which make up the Lebanese social fabric ... I hope to call in the next few days for the resumption of the national dialogue committee’s meetings in order to reaffirm commitment to the principles of the Baabda Declaration and follow up discussions on a comprehensive national strategy to protect and defend Lebanon based on the initial plan I have presented for this purpose,” Sleiman said.

During a national dialogue session he chaired in Baabda in September last year, Sleiman proposed a national defense strategy that would allow Hezbollah to keep its arms but place them under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would have exclusive authority to use force.

Under the proposal, Hezbollah would not hand its arms over to the Army, as demanded by the March 14 coalition, nor would there be coordination between the resistance and the Army, a defense strategy that Hezbollah has backed.

BA/BA

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