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Salafi Groups Freeze Hizbullah MoU.

In parallel, Iran's theocracy is encouraging Shi'ite groups to form alliances with Sunni activists, such as the Salafis, in the Arab world. But Salafi groups in northern Lebanon on Aug. 19 announced their decision to "freeze" a memorandum of understanding (MoU) they had signed with Hizbullah on Aug. 18. Shaikh Hassan al-Shahhal, who signed the MoU with Hizbullah's Shaikh Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, on Aug. 19 told a Tripoli news conference: "The MoU will be temporarily frozen pending appropriate circumstances which allow for its implementation". He said the Sunni community "needed more than ever to stand united and shun divisions".

Behind the freeze was the Future Movement, a mainly Sunni grouping led by Wahhabi MP Sa'd Hariri and a pillar of the pro-West March 14 Coalition of parties and politicians opposed to the Iran-led axis of anti-US forces in the GME (an axis in which the Syrian regime remains a key player). From Hariri's standpoint, the MoU was to divide Lebanon's Sunnis just as Hizbullah's February 2006 MoU with Maronite leader Gen Michel Aoun split the country's Christian community and subsequent events led to Hizbullah's 34-day war with Israel which ended on Aug. 14, 2006, under UNSC Resolution 1701.

Shahhal said the MoU "needs to be carefully studied". Shahhal held a joint conference with his cousin and founder of the Salafi movements in Lebanon Shaikh Da'i al-Islam al-Shahhal, who on Aug. 18 said the MoU was "insignificant". The eight-point MoU between Hizbullah and representatives of Salafis groups banned internal strife between Muslims. During the news conference, Shaikh Da'i al-Islam said: "The memorandum is in favour of Hizbullah and the Shi'ite community", as in the case of Hizbullah's MoU with Gen Aoun.

However, on Aug. 19 Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrullah defended the MoU, saying he was "surprised at hostility created after rapprochement between any two Lebanese groups". Speaking at a Hizbullah religious gathering, Nasrullah said all controversial issues should be tackled within constitutional institutions.

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Title Annotation:memorandum of understanding
Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Aug 25, 2008
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