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Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai kicked off a three day tour of South Lebanon on Saturday, National News Agency reported.

Rai arrived in the city of Tyre and was received by Hezbollah minister Mohammad Fneish, Amal MPs Ali Khreiss, Abdel Majid Saleh and Michel Moussa, as well as local Muftis and residents.

The patriarch also delivered a speech in which he called for “partnership in order to build the state,” the NNA added.

Patriarch under fire

In a related development Phalange party MP Nadim Gemayel on Saturday said that the Patriarch “did not clarify” his recent position concerning Hezbollah’s use of arms.

“The patriarch did not clarify his position; it is very important and dangerous…and [he] cannot have double standards regarding the arms’ issue,” the MP told LBC television.

He added that Hezbollah’s weapons “threaten and frustrate the Lebanese people.”

Rai came under fire earlier this month from the opposition March 14 parties but won praise from March 8 politicians for indirectly defending Hezbollah’s arms and linking the party’s arsenal to the termination of Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland . Even MP Walid Jumblatt who defected from March 14 alliance was very critical of Rai’s statements.

Rai emphasized during a trip to Paris that only when the international community exerts pressure on Israel to vacate the occupied Lebanese territory ( the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba hills and the Lebanese part of the disputed border village of Ghajar ) and Israel allows Palestinians in Lebanon to return to their homes, can Hezbollah be asked to hand over its arms because they will no longer be needed.”

Rai added that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “open-minded” and should be given more chances to implement the reforms he already announced.

Assad’s regime has cracked down on a string of unprecedented protests across his country, killing more than 2,700 civilian protesters since the uprising began in March, according to the United Nations.

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