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LEBANESE CHRISTIANS WANT END TO SYRIAN YOKE
Anti-Syrian sentiment is rising among Christians in Lebanon, evidenced by bold comments by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir in his visit to the US last week, and during protests at a Beirut university this week.
The WASHINGTON POST reported on March 9 that Cardinal Sfeir sought meetings with US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, but was "rebuffed" by American diplomats nervous about alienating Syria and its Lebanese allies just ahead of the Arab League summit at the end of March. Nonetheless, the Patriarch's message was well received in Washington. The POST described Cardinal Sfeir as "the most outspoken critic of the Syrian presence in his homeland."
In his message, the Patriarch demanded that Syria honor the terms of the Ta'if Agreement of 1989 and UN Security Council resolution 520, which both require Syria to leave Lebanon. He also urged that Damascus halt its abuse of human rights by kidnapping and murdering Lebanese Christians, return kidnapped Lebanese from Syria to Lebanon, stop its support of terrorist groups including Hizb'Allah, restore Lebanon to its original democratic structure by allowing freedom of worship, and replace the existing Lebanese government with a freely-elected representative government.
Meanwhile, Lebanese university students organized demonstrations in East Beirut Wednesday, demanding an end to Syria's military and political dominance of Lebanon. The protest, involving 3,000 Christian students, marked the anniversary of the failed anti-Syrian rebellion led by Maronite militia commander Michel Aoun 12 years ago. The peaceful rally called for Syrian withdrawal, Aoun's return from exile in Paris, and the release of jailed Christian warlord Samir Geagea. One protest banner said the Palestinian uprising against Israeli "occupation" inspired the students to do the same against Syrian forces.
Syria was quick to respond to these challenges, ordering Lebanese troops to break into and destroy the Christian Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. offices, with the station's owners and several employees savagely beating and kidnapped. Lebanese sources claim the harsh measure was meant to warn others in the media against broadcasting reports in opposition to Syrian rule. The violent reaction came as a result of the station's comprehensive coverage of the Patriarch's comments condemning the Syrians for their illegal occupation of Lebanon. The station is completely shut down, with Lebanese military guarding the building under the pretense of keeping law and order.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.