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Maronite Bishops Want New President Elected, Tribunal Created and Constitution Respected

Retrieved from Naharnet on April 6, 2007

 The Maronite Church on Wednesday urged Lebanon's Parliament to practice its role in dealing with the ongoing political crisis, declared support for the international tribunal and stressed that presidential elections should be held on time.

 The church, in a statement issued by Maronite Bishops after their monthly meeting, stressed that democracy is "one of Lebanon's pillars."

 It called for "halting any attempt to deactivate democracy and replacing it by non democratic practices.

 Such practices result in a chronic economic crisis."

 The church called for "activating dialogue within constitutional institutions, especially the parliament which represents all political factions."

 Achieving such a goal, the statement noted, "would be impossible if Parliament was not convened."

 To avoid escalating political differences into violence "we call on parliament to practice its constitutional and national roles … by deliberating the crisis and finding solutions to it through sound-democratic dialogue."

 The statement warned that "disabling constitutional institutions is a harbinger to the collapse of the democratic regime."

 It urged all the parties "to resume dialogue with the aim of finding a settlement to this crisis and breathing life into the executive authority (government)."

 The Maronite church "adheres to holding presidential elections as constitutionally scheduled."

 It warned that attempts by any faction to prevent quorum at the parliamentary session that would elect the new president would be an anti-constitutional attempt.

 The statement stressed that electing a new head of state to succeed President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires on Nov. 22, should not be linked to advance agreement on a new leader, warning that such a condition "could become a means of pressure … to impose a president in contrast with democratic rules."

 The statement was apparently referring to threats by the Hizbullah-led opposition to refrain from taking part in a parliamentary session to elect a new head of state, which would strip the legislature of a two -third quorum set by the constitution for the session.

 The Parliamentary majority which backs Premier Fouad Saniora's government does not control two thirds of the 128-seat parliament, but does have enough votes to elect a new head of state in the second round of balloting.

 The opposition-minority, on the other hand, can boycott the parliamentary session, blocking the election of a new president by stripping the house of the needed quorum to convene.

 The statement also stressed that Lebanon "should adhere to the international legitimacy (U.N.) and all resolutions issued by its institutions."

 The Maronite Church called all concerned parties to "refrain from blocking" efforts by the United Nations to create an international tribunal "to try culprits in the serious crimes committed in Lebanon since October 2004."

 It was referring to the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes since the attempt on the life of Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh on Oct. 1, 2004.