Lebanese Muslim, Christian Summit calls for national reconciliation


Beirut : Leaders of Lebanon’s religious groups met yesterday at the presidential palace to try to boost national reconciliation after dozens died in sectarian fighting last month and fresh clashes this week. “I hope this summit will lay down the basis of a national dialogue aimed at consolidating the unity of the country,” President Michel Sleiman told Muslim and Christian dignitaries at Baabda palace, southeast of the capital.

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Fierce clashes in Beirut and other part of the country in May that killed 65 people raised fears of all-out conflict in Lebanon, the scene of a 1975-1990 civil war, AFP reported. Sleiman, who organized the meeting, told delegates that “differences between Lebanese have led them to the brink of suicide” and called for dialogue “before it is too late.” This week in the northern city of Tripoli, sectarian fighting killed eight people and wounded 45, threatening to derail an accord to end a protracted political crisis in Lebanon. The agreement, reached in Qatar in May, led to Suleiman’s election as president, ending a six-month long period when the country had no head of state.

The accord also called for the formation of a unity government to end 18 months of political paralysis. This, however, has been delayed because of squabbles in sharing out ministries between the Western-backed, anti-Syrian majority and the opposition supported by Damascus and Tehran. “Politicians must assume their national responsibility in this critical period which the country is going through, even if that demands sacrifices and concessions,” the president said.

Those attending the meeting represented most of Lebanon’s 18 religious communities. They condemned the violence which rocked the country and stressed the need to adhere to the Doha accord which “prohibits recourse to weapons to achieve political objectives.” They also called for the liberation of remaining territory occupied by Israel, referring in particular to the Shebaa Farms, a strip of land at the junction of southeast Lebanon, southwest Syria and northern Israel.