LEBANON - Aug. 4 - Sfeir Visits Chouf.
Visiting the Chouf mountains for the first time, Maronite Patriarch Sfeir meets with Druze leader Jumblat. Druze and Christians greet Sfeir with rice and rose petals as he arrives in Mukhatra, Jumblat's hometown. Jumblat says: "We are all ready to open a new page and achieve unity and co-existence. We should all work to return all the displaced to their villages and finish the difficult reconciliation" between the Druze and the Christians. On relations with Syria, Jumblat says "the increased Israeli threats oblige us to respect the strategic military co-ordination between the two countries". Jumblat stresses the need to respect Lebanon's independence and sovereignty. (Jumblat, once a close Syrian ally, angered Damascus by rallying with his former Christian civil war foes in calling for more balanced ties with Syria and a Syrian troop redeployment. Syrian authorities went as far as to declare Jumblat persona non grata for two months late last year). Sfeir thanks Jumblat for his warm welcome and says: "We should forgive and forget in order to rebuild what was destroyed". Sfeir also calls for implementing reconciliation between the Druze and the Christians and work on returning all the displaced. The meeting lasts half an hour. It is attended by Jumblat's old Christian foe, former president Amin Gemayel, head of the Christian National Liberal Party (NLP) Dory Chamoun, and other prominent Christian, Druze and Muslim figures. Earlier, Pres. Lahoud hailed the historic three-day visit by Sfeir to the Chouf mountains. Lahous said he hoped the visit would speed up the long-awaited return of refugees "and return them to all their villages and close this file". Lahoud was speaking after meeting Sfeir at the mountainous 19th century Beiteddine Palace, at the heart of the Chouf district east of Beirut. (Since the civil war ended more than 10 years ago, many Christians have returned to their villages after national reconciliation).
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|Title Annotation:||Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Sfeir, Chouf mountains|
|Publication:||APS Diplomat Recorder|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Aug 11, 2001|
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