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Sfeir hopeful on sovereignty issue

Patriarch urges solidarity to support international momentum

Statement called for international observers to monitor forthcoming elections

Daily Star/Thursday February 03, 2005/Rita Boustani

Posted on 02/07/05  10:20 am


BKIRKI: The Maronite Bishops' Council said the current international momentum favoring Lebanese sovereignty and independence is a one time opportunity that the Lebanese should seize.

"The are signs indicating that Lebanon will regain all its rights if the Lebanese know how to show solidarity to accompany the international momentum favoring them now, before the proper chance is lost," the bishops said in a statement issued Wednesday after their monthly meeting, in reference to UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

The meeting was presided over by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir who has repeatedly expressed his support for Resolution 1559.

The bishops thanked France for its friendship and Sfeir for his efforts to restore Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty and independence.

Last week Sfeir was in France where he met with French President Jacques Chirac.

The statement urged the Lebanese to unify ranks in the elections, without attaching any importance to who will win.

"The Lebanese cause is more important than seats and posts," it said.

The statement also reiterated Sfeir's wish that impartial observers monitor the elections to guarantee their credibility, after expressing satisfaction regarding the course of Palestinian presidential elections, which were monitored by international observers. The statement further mentioned that the recent Iraqi elections were also supervised by local observers.

According to Sfeir, observers are needed here as most members of the government who will oversee the elections are parliamentary candidates.

The statement also called for the participation of Lebanese expatriates in the elections, again citing the example of Iraq, which allowed expatriates in 14 countries to cast their votes.

"We wish for observers in Lebanon and we wish the Lebanese expatriates would practice their right," the statement said.

Lebanese expatriates do not presently have the right to vote in elections here. Some observers believe that Christian expatriates vastly outnumber their Muslim counterparts and could change the balance in their favor if they were to participate in elections.

The statement hoped voters would be allowed to participate in the elections freely and hold their MPs accountable "because MPs are the representatives of the people."

Separately, Sfeir addressed a Lent message to Maronites in which he urged them to pray for unity, "the only way to ensure the social, economic and national security they aspire for."

Sfeir said divisions and conflicts have cost the country exorbitant debts, emigration of youth, a dire economic situation and a tense political climate.

However, the patriarch asserted that Lebanon is still in better shape than surrounding countries where bloody conflicts are taking place.

Sfeir called for all to pray for a comprehensive and fair peace in the region.