by Youssef Hourany, In an interview with AsiaNews, the Maronite Patriarch says he is in favour of Hezbollah

Moreover, he said he was very sorry to see “tensions between members of the Lebanese Forces and the followers of General Michel Aoun.” He urged them instead to “learn from the past, from the 1989-1990 clashes that left thousands dead and forced more to emigrate”.

In comments about calls for President Lahoud’s removal from office, the patriarch reiterated what he said months ago, namely that he was “opposed to actions based on the use of force in violation of the law and the constitution”.

He did though acknowledge the need to elect a new president when a general consensus emerges. Never the less, under current circumstances many baulk at the idea of having Lahoud removed.

For the patriarch, “everyone knows what is required. With 18 religious communities in Lebanon, [the new president] must be acceptable to his community for him to be able to preside over the affairs of all communities. He must be a trustworthy man, a man of integrity, one who is willing to sacrifice himself for the country.” What is more, the “next president, when he is elected, must be chosen by the Lebanese and must satisfy their aspirations and expectations”.

Patriarch Sfeir did not refrain from criticising last year’s elections, which were conducted under “unfair” rules in his opinion. Hopefully, he said, “we shall be able to get a more representative electoral law and, perhaps, hold fresh elections in the near future.”

Last but not least, the head of the Maronite Church spoke about relations with Syria, wondering whether Syria has actually pulled out of Lebanon given the continued presence of its secret services and its political influence in some parts of the country.

In light of this, he reiterated the need to continue the investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and is hopeful that relations between the two countries can improve.

 “Mutual respect and disinterested co-operation can renew historical ties between neighbours,” he explained.

As for the alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, Patriarch Sfeir re-stated his position that the latter “should disarm as a matter of principle because no one ought to bear arms even if they claim that their weapons are necessary to fight Israel”.