Christians Are ‘Moderating Force’ in Lebanon
Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, the largest Christian bloc in the Lebanese Parliament, said Christians were “like a transitional culture between the West and the East ... like a human bridge between both sides.”
Aoun, a Maronite
Catholic, said he thought it was “very symbolic for relations” that a
memorandum of understanding between his movement and Hezbollah, which
represents the Shiite Muslim community, was formally presented in February at
St. Michael Maronite Catholic Church in
“‘So it is very symbolic for starting a new period,” signified by the dialogue between his movement and Hezbollah, Aoun said.
‘”When I made the memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah, everybody was afraid of it,” said Aoun. “They considered it like a plague. After, they realized that it was a good thing, and they agreed with us.”
“We admitted that dialogue is the only way to solve the problems,” Aoun said of his Christian political party’s understanding with Hezbollah. “So it’s a step forward toward democracy.”
Aoun returned to
From exile in
His testimony before the U.S.
Congress was influential in the passage of the Syria Accountability and
Lebanese Sovereignty Act, signed by President George W. Bush in May 2004. The
act imposed economic sanctions on
In March 2005, some 1 million
Lebanese — Christians, Muslims and Druze — peacefully marched in a protest that
resulted in the complete withdrawal of Syrian forces from
Aoun said that those governing
However, he also said it was
important to have good relations with
Aoun and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah
However, the group failed to reach an agreement on the issue of Hezbollah’s disarmament and the fate of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. The talks were set to resume in early April.
Anti-Syrian politicians have waged a campaign to oust Lahoud, whose term ends Nov. 7. A replacement has yet to be agreed upon, but the Lebanese Constitution says the presidency must be held by a Maronite Catholic.
Aoun has publicly expressed his interest
in the presidency but said he will not participate in any action intended to
remove Lahoud from office. The general said he is
backed by about 75% of
“They are pushing me to be a candidate for president,” he said, adding that he feels he could serve his country in other ways, too.
Aoun predicts that “the situation [in
For the Lebanese diaspora concerned about the homeland, Aoun
said: “I can tell them that
- April 9-15, 2006