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Change and Reform bloc leader MP Michel Aoun on Wednesday praised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s “efforts to make reform” in Syria.

“We [praise] what President Assad has done in his country ,” Aoun told a visiting Syrian delegation at his residence in Rabieh.

He added that reforms should be “gradual,” and said that “real democracy cannot be achieved if the people were not [well]-prepared and educated.”

In a possible reference to the West, Aoun said that there are “attempts to create an Arab-Arab conflict instead of the Arab-Israeli conflict… in order to divide Arab states by inciting sectarianism.”

He also said

“They are attempting to to trigger strife under the guise of opposition demands for reform,” and added I hope the “Syrian people would be diligent enough to thwart the strife.”

Lebanon’s political scene is split between supporters of Assad’s regime, led by Hezbollah, and the March 14 pro-Western camp which supports the pro-democracy uprisinhg

UN figures said the Syrian regime’s crackdown on protests has left at least 5,000 people dead since mid-March.

Aoun who who was defeated by the Syrian army spent 15 years in exile in France . He returned to Beirut in 2005 shortly after the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Following his return he formed an alliance with the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah and ever since he has been a staunch ally of Syria.

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