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Lebanon News

Sleiman discusses new Libya ties, Sadr case with NTC envoy

BEIRUT: A Libyan envoy of the National Transitional Council met with President Michel Sleiman Thursday to discuss, among other things, efforts to resolve the riddle behind the 1978 disappearance of Lebanon’s influential Shiite cleric Imam Musa Sadr in Libya.

Abdullah Zaidani met Sleiman at the summer Presidential Palace in Beiteddine and discussed with him bilateral relations and the issue of Libyan deposits and assets in Lebanese banks, according to a statement released by the president’s office.

Zaidani thanked Sleiman for Lebanon’s recognition of the NTC, which has taken over in Libya following the downfall of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Sleiman and Zaidani discussed the opening of “a new page” in Lebanese-Libyan relations strained since Sadr’s disappearance since 1978, a political source told The Daily Star.

According to the source, Sleiman raised the issue of Sadr’s disappearance, saying that uncovering the truth behind this case would help improve relations between the countries.

Following meetings with Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt Wednesday, Zaidani said he had discussed efforts to uncover the fate of Sadr.

Calls for the NTC to uncover the fate of Sadr came after Libyan rebels overthrew the regime of Gadhafi, who has been accused of Sadr’s kidnapping.

The Lebanese government has directed an official ministerial delegation headed by Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to leave for Libya to follow up on Sadr’s case.

Mansour met Berri Thursday to brief him on the measures and arrangements taken by the Foreign Ministry to ensure the evacuation of Lebanese nationals from Libya to Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, former Metn MP Nassib Lahoud, head of the Democratic Renewal Movement, demanded Thursday “a white paper” from Libya’s NTC containing all official and nonofficial information and documents to reveal the truth behind Sadr’s disappearance.

In a statement, Lahoud congratulated the Libyan people on the “radical developments” in the past few days that led to Gadhafi’s ouster.

“It’s noteworthy that the ‘Arab Spring,’ which has been sweeping the Arab peoples since the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, has blossomed a new fruit and a window of real chance of hope for the Libyan people so that they can make a prosperous future based on freedom and respect of human dignity,” Lahoud said.

He added that the developments in Libya provided “a serious opportunity” to reveal the truth behind the “tragedy of kidnapping and disappearance of one of Lebanon’s great contemporary men, Imam Musa Sadr.”

“Hence, the Lebanese government and authorities are called upon to intercede as soon as possible with the NTC in Libya or any legitimate authority that will emanate from it later to issue ‘a white book’ on this case which is extremely important for Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Lahoud said. He added that this book must contain all documents and official and nonofficial information relating to the Sadr case.

The Mufti of Tyre and Jabal Amel Sheikh Hassan Abdullah called on Lebanese authorities to form “a high-level follow-up cell” to follow up the case of Sadr in Libya and work to uncover the fate of Sadr and his companions, Sheikh Mohammad Yaqoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine.

Lebanon’s Judicial Council implicated Gadhafi and 16 of his aides in Sadr’s disappearance in 2009. Lebanon’s Judicial Council postponed its first trial session against Gadhafi in March because Ghaleb Ghanem retired as Judicial Council president and the vacancy had yet to be filled.

Lebanese officials have hailed the collapse of Gadhafi’s regime, calling for the promotion of bilateral ties.

While Sadr’s family said Monday he was still alive and remained a prisoner in Libya, Gadhafi’s former associate Abdel-Monem Houni claimed in February, as the popular uprising began, that Sadr had been killed and buried shortly after he was kidnapped.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 26, 2011, on page 2.

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