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Rai: Lebanon Top Politicians Agree Solution to Political Tensions

Rai: Lebanon Top Politicians Agree Solution to Political Tensions

Tuesday, 26 October, 2021 - 16:45
PM Miktai meets Rai at the Grand Serail in Beirut. (Dalati & Nohra)

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai on Tuesday said the country’s three top politicians agreed to a “solution” to political tensions and government paralysis tied to high-profile judicial investigations in the country.

“They support the solution... I’m not entitled to say what the solution is,” Rai said during a news conference after a day spent shuttling from the prime minister to the parliament speaker and president.

He had earlier said after a meeting with parliament Speaker Nabih Berri that issues had to be resolved “because Lebanon is dying, the people are dying and the state is disintegrating,”

Rai also said he was “slightly upset” about the summoning of Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea by army intelligence for a hearing over fatal clashes in Beirut this month.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati has not convened a cabinet meeting since Oct. 12, pending a solution to a standoff over an investigation into last year’s Beirut port explosion that has paralyzed government for over two weeks.

Probe investigator judge Tarek Bitar has sought to question top officials including former ministers affiliated with Berri’s Amal movement and the Marada Movement, both key allies of Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has responded with a smear campaign accusing Bitar of politicizing the probe.

The row spilt over into cabinet when ministers allied to those parties called for Bitar’s removal in a heated discussion during the last session.

On Oct. 14, seven people, all followers of Hezbollah and Amal, were shot dead during a Beirut protest the parties organized against Bitar, the worst street violence in over a decade.

The parties claimed the seven were killed by supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party headed by Samir Geagea, who has backed the blast probe. Geagea has repeatedly denied the claims.

He was summoned for a hearing on Wednesday by army intelligence. No other top politician has been summoned for a hearing over the violence.

On Tuesday, Geagea’s lawyers filed a motion claiming the summons was unlawful, while attorneys representing a number of detainees submitted a motion requesting that Judge Fadi Akiki, who summoned Geagea, recuse himself from the case.

Mikati said earlier on Tuesday he hoped cabinet meetings would resume soon.

President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally who has said the judicial probe should continue and has rejected political interference in it, on Tuesday urged the government to resume meetings in order to reach a funding agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

An IMF deal is widely seen as the only way for Lebanon to access desperately needed international aid.

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