Welch calls on rival Lebanese parties to elect new president

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Welch calls on rival Lebanese parties to elect new president

Post by Admin on Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:03 am

US official says parliament ideal locale for dialogue

US
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch
called on rival Lebanese parties Thursday to head to Parliament and
elect a new president, adding that the perfect place for holding
national dialogue was Parliament itself. "There are state institutions
in which dialogue can be held," Welch told reporters after meeting
Premier Fouad Siniora


"Dialogue would be possible whenever the Parliament opens its doors and a new president is elected," he added.

"The
parliament is the right place for dialogue," Welch said, referring to
the institution's paralysis for over 16 months, adding that some groups
have "unilaterally taken steps" to prevent the election of a president.


"It's
not good that this position, that of the president, has been vacant for
so long because of course it is the most important Christian office in
the land," Welch said.


"Some
who have been influenced by outsiders have unilaterally taken steps to
arrest this political process, to facilitate their own goals ... and
those of their allies," he added, referring to the Hizbullah-led
opposition, Syria, and Iran.


Welch
said the US supported the three-point Arab League initiative which
calls for the immediate election of a president, the formation of a
national unity government, and the drafting of a new electoral law for
the 2009 parliamentary elections.


He
added that the international tribunal set up to try those behind the
2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri was an "irreversible"
process.


Before meeting Siniora, Welch met a delegation from the March 14 Forces at the residence of former MP Fares Soueid.

The
delegation handed over to the US official a memorandum calling on the
United States to maintain its backing for Lebanon against foreign
parties that want the country to be an arena for regional conflicts, as
well as to back Lebanese and Arab efforts aimed at achieving the
unconditional election of a new president.


It also held Syria responsible for the crisis in Lebanon, stressing that the main problem was between Beirut and Damascus.

The
March 14 Forces asked the US to back efforts aimed at pressuring Syria
to demarcate its border with Lebanon and establish diplomatic relations
with its smaller neighbor.

The
memorandum also called for speeding up the establishment of the
international tribunal, and requested that the US back the Lebanese
Army and the Internal Security Forces with training and equipment.


The
memo addressed the issue of the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, calling
on the United States to urge the international community to work on
putting the area under United Nations sovereignty.


The
March 14 Forces also asked for Washington's help in forming an
international investigation committee to probe the fate of Lebanese
detainees in Syrian jails, and demanded US backing for the Lebanese
government and Palestinian Authority's positions on rejecting the
naturalizing of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Welch also met with opposition leader Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday.

The
US diplomat and a number of March 14 Forces MPs had dinner at the
residence of Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt.


Welch
arrived in Lebanon Thursday to discuss the protracted presidential
crisis with rival political leaders, Lebanese officials said.


Welch's
visit also comes days before lawmakers are scheduled to make an 18th
attempt to elect a successor to former President Emile Lahoud, who
stepped down at the end of his term in office in November 2007.


US
Embassy spokeswoman Cherie Lenzen said Welch's previously unannounced
visit coincides with a ceremony on Friday to commemorate the 25th
anniversary of the US Embassy bombing in Beirut in which 60 people were
killed.


An
embassy official told AFP that families of the Lebanese victims of the
1983 attack would attend Friday's ceremony, while the families of the
American victims will attend a parallel ceremony in the United States.

A US Embassy vehicle was the target of a bomb attack that killed three young Lebanese earlier this year.

In
a separate development, US President George W. Bus and Pope Benedict
XVI on Wednesday voiced their support for Lebanon's independence and
sovereignty. Benedict was on his first visit to the United States as
pope.


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