BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric on Thursday reiterated his call for the country’s politicians to come together to form a new government.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai wants an international conference on the issue that would protect Lebanon, the Taif Agreement, “and equality,” but his sermons are falling on deaf ears.
The country’s lawmakers have failed to agree on a new administration since the last one resigned after the devastating Aug. 4 port explosion in Beirut.
There has also been a sharp increase in tension between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.
“We have reached a point where it is impossible for us to communicate or reach an agreement,” Al-Rai said on Thursday.
“We must diagnose our problem and treat it based on three constants: The Taif Agreement, the constitution, and the Charter. All the country’s problems are caused by foreign interventions.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah rejected Rai’s proposition, calling it “the internationalization and cover for a new occupation. Nobody messes with us,” he said.
Nasrallah’s words sparked criticism from Christian parties on social media, and several Arab and foreign diplomats visited Al-Rai to voice their support for his proposal.
“There is a need to properly implement the Taif Agreement, which guarantees the national unity and civil peace of the country,” Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari said.
Delegations from the Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and other opposing parties also visited the patriarch.
“We are living in hell as a result of drawing Lebanon into the Iranian-American conflict,” Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Habshi said.
“This makes it imperative to resort to the international community as Lebanon is being held as a hostage.”
Former Information Minister Ghazi Aridi, a PSP member, said Lebanon’s president does not want Hariri as prime minister.
He also dismissed efforts by the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), led by Aoun’s son-in-law MP Gebran Bassil, to be included in the government’s formation.
“Bassil’s insistence on having the bloc third in the government is a failed attempt,” Aridi said. “There will not be any third.”
An FPM delegation also met with Al-Rai on Thursday, while Bassil spoke on the phone with the patriarch.
MP Roger Azar reiterated the FPM’s demands and said: “We informed the patriarch of the FPM’s readiness to discuss any suggestion within the constitutional norms and terms, and on the basis of a comprehensive national partnership.”
Former MP Ahmed Fatfat said any attack against Al-Rai just solidifies his position as an important reference in the country.
“Al-Rai is waging a basic and clear battle and has the support of all political parties and communities in Lebanon,” Fatfat said. “Intimidation attempts are useless.”