Hope For Lebanon’s New Government

BEIRUT (CNS) — Following the collapse of Lebanon’s government, Catholic leaders expressed hope for a new government that would work for the benefit of all Lebanese.

Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria, said in a statement that “only God knows what the effect will be” of the change in Lebanon’s government.

Pointing out that most Arab countries are facing “tragic and pessimistic” situations, the patriarch said it was necessary to keep such conflicts from reaching Lebanon. “That’s why we urge the politicians in Lebanon and leaders of political parties to settle” the situation and to make a “democratic decision to solve and end the anxious situation that blocks the country and affects it economically.”

“We pray that Lebanese politicians and leaders of political parties will work together for a new Lebanon,” Patriarch Laham said. He called for the new government to “preserve the unique quality of coexistence” in Lebanon and said it should be “strong enough to stabilize the country and guide it to prosperity.”

Approximately 39 percent of Lebanon’s population of 4.1 million is Christian.

Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the Parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim. The government of national unity that resigned was formed based on quotas among groups known as March 14, March 8 and the President of the Republic, said Maronite Bishop Bechara Rai of Jbeil.

“This kind of government has been well received by all those who … desire the reestablishment of the national unity. But it was not able to launch itself because of friction among the groups, especially due to the political conflict between Sunnis (March 14) and Shiites (March 8). This political conflict is strictly linked to Sunni and Shiite currents over the regional plan with international allies,” the bishop told Catholic News Service in an e-mail. Bishop Rai said the Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, has compared the situation to a plow pulled in opposite directions by horses.

“This comparison has been confirmed by the resignation of the Cabinet,” Bishop Rai said. “The best solution would be to form a new Cabinet of technocrats” not linked to any group, he said. “Such a government would be apt to normalize the functionality of constitutional institutions, to revitalize the public administration, to provide the needs of citizens and to work only for the common good of people.”

Lebanon’s unity government was been split over the U.N.–backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, responsible for investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. On Jan. 12, ministers of the Hezbollah-backed opposition and its allies resigned, toppling the Cabinet.

Of the 11 government ministers who resigned, five are Christian.

On Jan. 17, Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare handed over the tribunal’s indictment, which had been widely assumed to contain the names of Hezbollah members, to pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen.

The indictment is expected to remain sealed for six to eight weeks.

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