Lebanon's Baathists call patriarch Western agent
Faction calls Jumblatt self-serving 'liar'
Daily Star/Saturday February 05, 2005/Leila Hatoum and Majdoline Hatoum
Posted on 02/07/05 10:30 am
BEIRUT: Lebanon's Baath Party has accused Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir of being an "agent for the West."
The attack on the Patriarch is the first time the Baath Party has openly criticized the religious leader and marks an escalation of the increasingly bitter row between the pro-Syrian political faction and those opposed to Damascus.
The party also stepped up its row with Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt calling him a "liar who works for his own interests."
The latest tirade against those opposed to Syrian control over Lebanon's sovereignty comes at the end of a week where tensions between the two sides have reached new highs.
In a statement released Friday, Lebanon's Baath Party accused Sfeir and Jumblatt of constantly changing their positions on Syria's relationship with Lebanon and on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559.
"Jumblatt has turned his back on Syria's helping hand, which saw him through hard times," said the statement.
"He is marketing himself as the 'Godfather' of the opposition and keeps casting lies left and right." it added.
The statement follows Jumblatt's accusation earlier this week that "the 'dregs' of the Baath Party" had murdered his father, national leader Kamal Jumblatt in 1977.
The party's unprecedented attack on the patriarch also accused him of "taking direct orders from the French and American embassies."
Christian opposition Qornet Shehwan Gathering member Jbeil MP Fares Soueid said the Baath Party should "not mess with the Maronite Church."
He said: "When Sfeir defends Arab interests, they give him high credits, calling him the Arab's patriarch, but when he calls for Lebanon's best interest, they accuse him of being an agent for the West."
Meanwhile, in a further escalation of tension, MP Marwan Fares, also a member of the National Syrian Party, warned a "wide movement" against the Bristol gathering members, the collective name for the opposition, would take place within the next couple of days.
Fares accused opposition members of supporting a "very dangerous plan that tampers with Lebanon's future," adding that pro-government political powers "will move united against the opposition, and their reply will express the Lebanese people's will."
He added: "The Bristol gathering only represents sectarian factions."
Also on Friday, the Democratic Leftist Party, (DLP), accused certain ministers and politicians in the government of being the Syrian intelligence's puppets and of "acting according to Syrian and Lebanese intelligence instructions."
"This behavior only reflects the degree of political bankruptcy in the government," the DLP added.
Following a meeting with the Maronite patriarch on Friday, Batroun MP Butros Harb, who is also a member of Qornet Shehwan, said: "Maybe the government has discovered that it has difficulties with public opinion and has decided to attack the opposition as a defensive mechanism."
He added: "If our Syrian brothers have a sound and serious intention of withdrawing from Lebanon, then we are ready, because we don't want to build hatred with Syria, but rather have good relations with it."
Tyre MP Ali Khreis, who is a member of Speaker Nabih Berri's parliamentary bloc, also criticized the opposition.
He said: "Some people are indirectly trying to eliminate the Taif Accord and replace it with [UN Security Council Resolution] 1559, which helps Israel and the the United States in fulfilling their dreams and executing their conspiracies in Lebanon."
Addoum: Aoun will be Arrested if he returns
BEIRUT: Justice Minister Adnan Addoum warned exiled former Army Commander General Michel Aoun that he will be "arrested at the airport" if he returns to Lebanon.
His warning follows Aoun's accusation made during a television interview earlier this week that Addoum had "invented" criminal charges against the exiled general in order to prevent him from returning to Lebanon.
But Addoum, who became Justice Minister late last year, said: "Legal action was taken against him before I even became Public Prosecutor. There is no wish to prevent Aoun from coming back, but the legal case against him must follow the normal legal procedures, which means he will be arrested at the airport upon his arrival in the country."
Addoum said that the only way out for Aoun was if he came back to Lebanon and stood for trial.
Aoun's trial is scheduled to begin in Beirut next Tuesday.
Aoun is facing a number of charges including "damaging relations with a sisterly nation" following his attack on Syria while addressing the US Congress last year.
Despite repeated statements that he is ready to come back to Lebanon, Aoun has failed to fix a date for his return.
The general had said he would be back in the country before May's parliamentary elections. But Addoum's latest comments may well muddy the water for him.
Addoum also said that there was no chance Aoun could get a special pardon, since his case is still under trial, and had not reached a verdict yet.
Aoun insisted during his earlier interview that he would come back to Lebanon even if the criminal charges against him were not droped. He also said his return did not require a "green light" from the government.