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Fares Soueid, Coordinator of March 14 General Secretariat told Voice of Lebanon on Monday that he hopes “Bkirki remains above political rhetoric and above aligning with any team.”

“We did not hear the patriarch reiterate the political positions that he said from Paris or Baalbek during his visit to South Lebanon , but he spoke in a cultural manner, and this is something good,” he said

Rai on Saturday kicked off a three-day visit to South Lebanon and was warmly welcomed by Hezbollah and Amal officials .

“I will not allow myself to say that the patriarch says something and then takes it back ,” Soueid added.

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.

Update: Patriarch Rai has returned from his trip to south lebanon and is currently meeting with President Michel Suleiman and Amal leader Speaker Nabih Berri , New TV reported

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