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Lebanon’s Berri Upset with Qabalan’s Comments as Officials Scramble to Address Fallout

Lebanon’s Berri Upset with Qabalan’s Comments as Officials Scramble to Address Fallout

Tuesday, 26 May, 2020 - 11:00
Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 6, 2017. (Reuters)
Beirut – Caroline Akoum

Lebanon’s parliament Speaker Nabih Berri expressed disappointment over recent statements by Mufti al-Jaafari Ahmad Qabalan, well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Qabalan criticized the Lebanese system based on equality between Christians and Muslims, and said in Eid al-Fitr holiday message: “We confirm that Lebanon was built on a sectarian basis, with the function of serving the colonial and monopolistic project, and this formula has ended, and what Beshara Al-Khoury and Riyadh Al-Solh did is no longer suitable for the state of the individual and the citizen; it is a phase that has come to an end.”

Sources familiar with Berri’s position acknowledged that the mufti’s words raised confusion among the political circles.

The speaker’s visitors told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was upset with Qablan’s approach. They noted that contacts were underway to contain its repercussions.

Qabalan’s remarks came after Berri rejected what he described as “the dissonant voices calling for federalism.”

Last week, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gebran Bassil, called for administrative and financial decentralization, which was interpreted by many observers as an invitation to a kind of federalism.

In comments, MP Ghazi Zoaiter, who belongs to Berri’s parliamentary bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We support everything that unites the citizens of this country and does not differentiate between them. This is the message of Imam Musa al-Sadr, as Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has said.”

FPM MP Alain Aoun refused to comment on the matter, and considered that Qabalan’s speech did not reflect the political position of the Shiite community that is expressed by the Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

The head of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), former deputy Walid Jumblatt, said on Twitter: “I don’t see how some people are still talking about federalism, or something similar to partition, which is a suicide project for everyone without exception…”

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