06/04/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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No short term solution to Lebanon’s crisis as terrorists open second front in the south

Berri rejects Hariri’s proposal to reopen inter-Lebanese dialogue. Aoun is in Roma for talks with the Vatican and Italy. France vets chances of a conference bringing together Lebanese and other interested parties.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – No light at the end of the tunnel in Lebanon’s crisis after Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, who heads opposition Shia party Amal, rejected a proposal by parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri to reopen inter-Lebanese dialogue as a preliminary condition to the current government’s resignation. The fall of the Fouad Siniora’s government thus appears to be the fundamental goal of pro-Syrian groups since the idea of setting up an international tribunal into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was first floated. The tribunal itself was agreed to last month by the United Nations.

It is within this context that rumours have surfaced about a possible French initiative in favour of a conference bringing together Lebanese groups and other interested parties like Syria and the Arab League and clashes between Islamist militants and Lebanese troops have occurred in the Palestinian refugee camp in Ain al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon.

At the edges of the ongoing crisis General Michel Aoun continues his campaign to become Lebanese president as he visits Europe.

After a week in Paris where he met French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Aoun arrived in Rome yesterday for talks with the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Mgr Dominique Mamberti, and the Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema.

In the meantime the tally of dead and wounded continues to rise in Lebanon. So far four people have died and 11 have been wounded in clashes between the Lebanese army and the Jund al-Sham group after the latter attacked an army post with the clear intention of forcing the Lebanese military to loosen its noose around the Nahar al-Bared camp where the terrorists of the Fatah la-Islam group have been holed up battling the army.

According to the An Nahar newspaper Fatah al-Islam militants were planning a September 11-style attack on Lebanon involving a hotel, foreign embassies and the Shekka tunnel which links Beirut to Tripoli with the goal of cutting off the northern region from the rest of the country and setting up an Islamic state.

The plan, also reported by French daily L’Orient Le Jour, included four suicide truck bombs against a large hotel in the capital and other suicide attacks on two Western embassies. Other bombs were to be planted in Beirut’s suburbs and on roads to isolate the North.

Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir also spoke about the clashes between the army and terrorists in yesterday’s Sunday mass dedicated to the defence of life.

The cardinal praised the army “for its huge efforts to avoid unnecessary loss of life and destruction” and warned that “it is a duty in some circumstances for all parties to work together to defend the country”.  (PD)

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