Friday, March 23, 2007

Geagea denies progress in Berri-Hariri meetings  opposition 'inflicting severe damage'

"We are doing our best to get the country out of the current crisis, but I think the other party has other considerations," he said of the opposition.

BKIRKI: Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea on Thursday bemoaned the fact that a nearly four-month-old political crisis was "still present, despite the efforts we are making" to resolve it. Speaking after a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir at Bkirki, Geagea said that "no solutions have been reached" during numerous meetings between Speaker Nabih Berri and parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri over the past two weeks

He dismissed rumors that a solution to the crisis was being hammered out at the expense of the Christian community.

"The ongoing discussions [between Berri and Hariri] encompass all parties … This is when it comes to the March 14 Forces … As for Berri, I don’t know," he said.

Geagea said he had delivered a letter from French President Jacques Chirac, with whom he met in Paris recently, to Sfeir, but did not reveal the contents thereof.

He told reporters that a new election law was "one of our priorities," in response to a question concerning the possibility of a law that "does justice to the Christian community."

Commenting on the parliamentary seat left vacant since the assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel last November, Geagea said: "If the Metn by-elections are still suspended, how will we form an electoral law?"

"We want constitutional institutions to get back to work so we can pass the law," he added.

Geagea said that he believed all parties could reach an agreement on a law that "responds to all requests," especially those of the Christian community, which he said, "has been denied the right of political representation for a long time."

"Basically, there is a general trend to adopt the small district, or qada," he said.

The LF leader also expressed support for "any means to approve" the formation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"We prefer that it be passed in Parliament … but if the legislature remains shut down we will resort to Chapter VII of the UN Charter," Geagea said.

"They say they support the tribunal … I can say that this is not true," he added, once more referring to the opposition.

The Christian politician said that his disagreements with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun were political, not personal.

"My personal relationship with Aoun is good, but on the political level we have great differences due to our totally different political stands," he said.

"I believe that everything that the Lebanese Forces are doing serves the country’s interest … but the other camp is inflicting severe damage [on the country] and we can’t be a part of it," he added.

Geagea said what was needed was a resumption of multiparty talks. "If the other camp wants a serious dialogue, we will be ready to accompany them anywhere they want … to Alaska, India, China … the most important thing is to sit together," he added.

Sfeir also met with Egyptian Ambassador Hussein Darrar on Thursday to discuss recent developments in the region. No comments were released after the meeting.