LEBANON: Can't we all just get along?
It's kiss-and-make-up time in Lebanon. After clashes in May brought the country to the brink of a civil war, everyone's reconciling.
One of Lebanon’s staunchest U.S. allies, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, sent representatives to meet with leaders of the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah on Monday. The aim was to make amends after fighting between the two groups left dozens dead.
Following the come-together, Hezbollah-allied labor minister Mohammad Fneish told reporters:
“The meeting marks the beginning of a new era and aims to facilitate the dialogue atmosphere… There will be further meetings, but this does not mean that we reached agreement on all controversial issues."
Kissing and making up with Hezbollah doesn't mean Jumblatt’s throwing his lot in with the pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian side of Lebaon's political divide (as he did during much of the 1980s and 1990s). His party leaders stressed that they would not drift away from the Western-backed coalition facing off against Hezbollah. Jumblat’s rep, state minister Wael About Faour, said after the meeting:
We maintain that dialogue is the best way to solve all political disputes… We disagree with Hezbollah over some points and agree over others. And this meeting does not mean we are walking out on our allies... This meeting happened in total coordination with our allies.
The reconciliation meeting took place as Sunni leader Saad Hariri toured various Lebanese towns, pushing for an easing of sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis, even as his Future Television channel continues to pump out sectarian hate messages.
The big reunion that the Lebanese still await: one between Hariri and Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, who was close to Hariri's slain father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Although Lebanese leaders signed an agreement in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar in May, tensions linger. Security in the country remains shaky. A car bomb last week killed a member of a pro-Hezbollah Druze party.
The assassinated figure, Saleh Aridi, was reportedly a key figure in mediations between Jumblatt and Hezbollah over the last months. Looks like not everyone supports the current love-in.
— Raed Rafei in Beirut
Photo: Hezbollah senior official Mohamed Raad (right) speaks with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt (center) and house speaker Nabih Berri (left), a Hezbollah ally at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Lebanon on Sept. 16. 16 September 2008. Lebanon's political leaders have closed the first session of a national political dialogue aimed at resolving the country's long-standing difficulties. Credit: DALATI NOHRA / European Pressphoto Agency
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