As-Safir newspaper reported on Saturday that Maronite Patriarch Becahra Boutros al-Rai addressed Lebanese politicians by saying : “Look at what the people want…Look at the Christians and Muslims that greeted me with flowers…It is not true that all the Shiites are with Hezbollah. Lebanon’s diversity is beautiful, and the people need salvation from the situation they are living.”
Rai denied reports that he tried to cancel the meeting of the Christian parties of the March 14 alliance, the daily reported on Saturday.
The meeting will take place on October 23 at the Lady of the Mountain Monastery in Kesrouan.
“We are not with a party against another. Let the struggle between political parties be democratic and be based on openness,” the daily quoted Rai as telling reporters.
According to the daily, Rai also denied reports that he rejected Future bloc MPs Bahia Hariri and Fouad Siniora’s lunch invitations to Saida, adding “They did not invite me, and I did not reject any invitations.”
The patriarch, currently in the US, also said that he encourages reconciliation between opposition leader Saad Hariri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, adding that he “wants them to cooperate for Lebanon’s benefit,” As-Safir added.
Rai came under fire earlier in September 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.
The patriarch claimed after returning to Lebanon that the remarks he made while in Paris “were taken out of context and have nothing to do” with his personal opinion.
Rai reiterated his controversial position on Syria and Hezbollah’s arms during a meeting Friday with President Michel Suleiman who is planning to renew his call for rival leaders to engage in national dialogue to end their deep political divisions, sources said.
Assad’s regime has cracked down on a string of unprecedented protests across his country, killing more than 2,900 civilian protesters since the uprising began in March, according to the United Nations.