| 10.12,08. 11:34 PM |
BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader MP Walid Jumblatt said on Sunday that the Syrian regime posed a danger to Lebanon's "independence movement," referring to his anti-Damascus March 14 Forces. "The Syrian regime is the first and last danger that the independence movement is facing," he told his party's general assembly, which was held in the town of Baakline in the Chouf Mountains, southeast of Beirut.
Jumblatt said that next year's parliamentary elections would decide Lebanon's fate in the near future.
"If the March 14 Forces lose the elections, the country will return to the period of Syrian tutelage," he said.
The PSP chief called on his comrades not to lose faith in their cause and to stay committed to the principles of the March 14 alliance.
"The real reconciliation between the Lebanese people was that of March 14, 2005," he said, referring to the mass gathering in Martyrs Square one month after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. "We should stay focused to face challenges, especially after the Syrian regime has succeeded in ending its international isolation as heads of states will be rushing to visit Damascus."
Remembering his late father Kamal Jumblatt, the PSP leader told his comrades that he would not change course.
"The Syrians killed Kamal Jumblatt because they wanted to kill the PSP, but in fact nothing changed as I will continue to be my father's son," he said.
Kamal Jumblatt was killed in 1977 and many Lebanese blame his death on Syria.
The PSP chief also accused Damascus of "destroying the unity of the Palestinian people."
"My father was one of the first to fight for the Palestinian cause ... Both Kamal Jumblatt and Yasser Arafat died while trying to keep the Palestinians united," he said referring to the late Palestinian president.
The general assembly was concluded by the re-election of Jumblatt as party leader, a post he has held since the assassination of his father.
Also Sunday, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader and MP Michel Aoun returned to Beirut after a five-day visit to Syria. Aoun wrapped up his trip by visiting Saint Maroun's grave in the city of Aleppo.
Saint Maroun is the founder of the Christian Maronite faith, to which the majority of Lebanese Christians adhere.
Speaking to reporters after attending a Mass, Aoun said Lebanon and Syria were destined to have normal relations.
"I came here to call for purifying our souls ... I hope my call will reach other Lebanese as well," he said, adding that reconciliation among Christian parties in Lebanon was not necessary. "It is normal to have political differences among Christians ... This does not require a reconciliation," he said.
On Saturday, Aoun told Syrian state television that he could not have delayed his visit to Damascus any further.
"I waited for a long time, hoping some parties would change their positions, but I realized in the end that some were retarded and had rigid minds," he said.
Aoun added that there were two camps in Lebanon; a national one which was committed to having good relations with its surrounding environment as opposed to a "mobile one which is like a taxi cab that moves from one place to another."
Aoun also visited Christian memorials on Saturday before joining a banquet held in his honor by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
March 14 MP Marwan Hamadeh said Aoun had taken to Damascus "the dignity of the Lebanese people and will come back with nothing."
Speaking to Voice of Lebanon radio, Hamadeh said he "regretted Aoun's transformation of the Free Patriotic Movement into a second Syrian Socialist National Party or even less."
In contrast, Hizbullah's senior official in the South, Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, said Aoun's visit to Syria would empower Lebanon to face "foreign guardianship" and Israeli threats. He also said that while the resistance had given diplomacy "a chance," the international community had failed to liberate the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba Hills from Israeli occupation.
Separately, Speaker Nabih Berri said Sunday that amendments to the Taif Accord that ended the 1975-1990 Civil War, as suggested by Aoun, were only possible if there was national consensus on the issue.
"Taif is not a holy book," Berri told the pan-Arab Ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. "But any amendments to it can only be achieved through Lebanese consensus."
Also Sunday, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir urged young Christians to enlist in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
Speaking during his weekly sermon, Sfeir said military service was "a national duty" around the world.
"It is necessary in order to preserve the nation and make it prosper," he said.
Sfeir's remarks came after a senior military official said that the number of Christians joining the LAF was decreasing.
Also speaking on the eve of Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hassan hoped that dialogue would prosper under the auspices of President Michel Sleiman.
On the security front, security forces defused 750 grams of explosives that were placed in a Sidon neighborhood.
The TNT was connected to an electric wire and placed on the side of a road that leads to the residence of Sidon Mayor Abdel Rahman al-Bizri. The same road also leads to the southern city's Justice Palace.