Zahle bishop oversees fence mending, Marouni a no-show

46914_mainimg1.jpgBy Rakan al-Fakih The Daily Star
March 8 and 14 politicians met Saydet al-Najat church in Zahle.
ZAHLE, Lebanon: Politicians from across the March 14 and March 8 divided gathered Friday in Zahle in a reconciliation effort sponsored by the city’s Catholic bishop, Issam Darwish, but a leading Kataeb Party official was a no-show.

The reconciliation meeting and luncheon took place at Saydet al-Najat Church, where Orthodox, Maronite and Syriac Orthodox bishops from Zahle and the Bekaa were also in attendance to give their blessing to the event, which Darwish said was necessitated by the fact that Lebanon is “experiencing possibly its most difficult and critical phase in the history of the country and the region.”

The bishop said the participants had agreed to bury their differences and rally around the needs of Zahle.

In attendance were ministers Gabi Layyoun and former MP Salim Aoun from the Free Patriotic Movement, along with their rivals, Tony Abi Khater, Shant Janjian and Joseph Maalouf, along with former Minister Salim Warde, on behalf of the Lebanese Forces.

Other figures on hand were Minister of State Nicolas Fattoush, and former ministers Elie Skaff, Khalil Hrawi, Youssef Maalouf and former Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli.

Political tension in the city has been in ebb and flow in recent years, from the 2009 parliamentary polls, won by March 14, the 2010 municipal elections, won by Skaff-supported candidates, and last year’s defection by Fattoush from the March 14 bloc, to name Najib Mikati as prime minister.

But Kataeb Party official and Zahle MP Elie Marouni refused to attend the ceremony because two individuals seen as close to Skaff are wanted in connection with the 2008 murder of Marouni’s brother, Nasri, and Salim Issa.

Marouni said he informed Darwish that “Mr. Skaff could have issued a statement condemning the crime and declaring his solidarity with [my] family and the Kataeb Party, and that he would try to apprehend the criminals and turn them over to the judiciary – these few words could have been said at any time since Apr. 20, 2008.”

The MP said he supported Darwish’s initiative, for the sake of the city, and added that he was “represented” at the meeting by the LF officials in attendance.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::