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Lebanon's Rai Calls For Raids on Illegal Weapons Depots

Lebanon's Rai Calls For Raids on Illegal Weapons Depots

Monday, 24 August, 2020 - 07:00
Patriarch Rai during Sunday Mass service in Diman (NNA)

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai escalated Sunday the intensity of his statements against Hezbollah’s arms, without directly naming the party as he called for “carrying out raids on all weapons and explosives caches and warehouses spread illegally between residential neighborhoods in cities, towns, and villages.”

The Patriarch pointed out that citizens' lives do not belong to any person, faction, party, or organization.

His statements, during Sunday Mass service at the patriarchal summer retreat of Diman, came amid growing distancing between Bkirki and the Shiite party, in the absence of any public contacts between the two sides, at least since Rai called for Lebanon’s neutrality last month.

Hezbollah is considered one of the main parties to possess large military capacities used in its conflict with Israel.

However, those arms remained a contentious issue.

Since 2006, core political actors held several dialogue tables to reach a consensus on a National Defense Strategy to face Israeli aggressions. However, no results were reached in this regard as talks over the party’s full monopoly on the possession of arms led to political tension between Hezbollah and some Lebanese political parties, which call for restricting weapons in the hands of the Lebanese Army.

For the first time since he was appointed Patriarch in 2011, Rai tackled on Sunday the file of raiding arms depots.

“Some Lebanese areas have been transformed into fields of explosives [and] we do not know when they will explode or who will detonate them,” Rai said.

Amid Hezbollah’s silence about Rai’s calls, Maronite sources close to the matter denied that Bkirki plans to break its relations with the Party.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Rai does not break relations with anyone. The Patriarch is interested in reaching all Lebanese constituencies within the constants of respect for sovereignty and independence.”

Although the sources did not deny the presence of disagreements on the weapons of Hezbollah, they said: “We reached a delicate phase that affects the fate of Lebanon.”

The same sources explained that the arms file is a contentious issue that overpasses the Lebanese makeup.

“In light of regional developments and the change of international balances, the Patriarch cares to remove all pretensions around the arms file and to safeguard neutrality,” the sources said.

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