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July 1, 2006

Lebanonwire

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Pro-Syrian Al-Marada party re-surfaces with a revised platform

Pro-Syrian Christian leader and former cabinet minister Suleiman Franjieh on June 11 launched his reorganized al-Marada party in his hometown of Zghorta in north Lebanon in a ceremony attended by thousands of followers and members of other pro-Syrian parties, including the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal movement.

Al-Marada was originally founded as a militia during the Lebanese civil war by Franjieh's grandfather who was then president of the republic. Al-Marada was disarmed like other militias, under the 1989 Taif peace Accord, which silenced the guns of the civil war.

Only Hezbollah has kept its arms to continue the resistance against Israeli occupation in south Lebanon.

The launching of al-Marada party coincided with the commemoration of the 1978 Ehden massacre when Franjieh's father, Tony, and members of his family and followers were assassinated, allegedly by rival Christian militiamen from the Phalange Party and the Lebanese Forces militia.

Franjieh said the main aims of his new party are to support Hezbollah's resistance movement, oppose the resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon and prevent the country's division.

Beirut's daily AS SAFIR published the main guidelines of the new group's political platform (June 9) which first stressed that Lebanon is a final state for all its citizens, has an Arab identity and is totally sovereign on all its national territory. It has a free political system based on consensual democracy and national coexistence.

The party stresses that true and real balance protects national coexistence along with respecting public freedoms. It rejects all projects for resettling Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, stressing their right of return to their homeland.

The party asserts that Israel is the enemy of all Lebanese and Lebanon is committed to the stance of the Arab League with regard to the Middle East conflict. The party rejects all kinds of partition or federalism while stressing the unity of Lebanon at all levels. The new party also called for boosting free economy, safeguarding free teaching, improving public schools and seeking to unify educational curricula in order to boost national integration and harmony.

Best System for Lebanon

The party stressed that consensual democracy is the best system that suits Lebanon in view of the diversity of its population. "The Lebanese system is somehow unique as it is based on a balance between its multiple factions. National coexistence is at the core of the system, which eliminates the possibility that the system be controlled by a single party, faction, family, or sect. Democracy cannot be that of numbers in the sectarian sense otherwise the balance upon which Lebanon is built will be tilted. Numeric democracy in political terms could be an objective for societies which are not affected by political sectarianism and this does not apply to Lebanon."

The party emphasized that consensual democracy is the only guarantee for preserving the Lebanese entity at present in order to secure national integration and harmony. It also stressed the importance of the election law in safeguarding national coexistence, which it said should be based on several principles. No party or faction can eliminate another, ensuring the best chances for all Lebanese to express themselves and choose their representatives, securing the largest possible representation of the people, ensuring the participation of the young generation by reducing the age of eligible voters from 21 to 18, and achieving justice through securing the representation of all parties by a number of seats reflecting their electoral force.

The new group underlined as well the need to guarantee the independence of the judicial authorities to enable them to protect the rights of individuals and groups. It emphasized the situation of the Christians which it said have been marginalized and kept away from decision-making before and after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in April last year. "In the post-Taif phase the Christians suffered from imbalance in representation in public posts and state institutions. Today the situation of the Christians is still not satisfactory. They are not partners in power because they are not unified, which necessitates efforts to rally them around joint strategic matters in a program that would be sponsored by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir."

A Badge Of Honor

Al-Marada expressed outright and firm support to Hezbollah's arms and resistance against Israel saying "it is a badge of honor for Lebanon, which was necessary for liberation from Israeli occupation and continues to be as such after years from liberation which is not completed yet." It said the justification for Hezbollah's arms is still valid, notably Lebanon's right to defend itself from Israeli aggression, liberate the Shabaa Farms and secure the freedom of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.

The party argued that Hezbollah's arms were always directed against the Israeli enemy and not against any Lebanese groups. It said the fate of Hezbollah's arms should be a subject of debate and dialogue among Lebanese groups in order to iron out any concerns or worries. However, these arms can continue to act as a deterrent against any possible Israeli aggression within the framework of national defense strategy approved by all Lebanese.

On relations with Damascus, the pro-Syrian group stressed the need to draw a line between strategic necessities and the behavior of certain officials in both Lebanon and Syria. It called for acknowledging the positive aspects of relations with Syria and the role Syria played in ending the civil war, supporting the Lebanese army and the resistance movement and backing relatively the Taif agreement.

Also negative aspects of relations stemming from the abuse of power by both Lebanese and Syrian officials should be acknowledged. Such behavior tarnished relations and weakened the arguments of Syria's friends and embarrassed them, while giving a push to Syria's enemies and those who turned against it.

"With the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon, abuses ceased and spirits calmed down enabling the Lebanese people to reconsider the importance of strategic relations with Syria away from past grievances."

The party stressed the need to formulate a joint understanding of the distinctive Syrian-Lebanese relations on the basis of mutual respect and sovereignty and exchange diplomatic representation through opening embassies in Beirut and Damascus.

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