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SUNDAY, 20 APR 2014
07:45 PM Beirut time
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Rai urges MPs elect new president, says Cabinet needed
Patriarch Beshara Rai heads a ceremony in Bkirki, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. (The Daily Star/Elie Mansour)
Patriarch Beshara Rai heads a ceremony in Bkirki, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. (The Daily Star/Elie Mansour)
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BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai urged lawmakers Tuesday to ensure the timely election of a new president capable of bridging the gap between political rivals and stressed the need for a Cabinet that was in line with the Constitution.

“Peace in Lebanon compels MPs to attend Parliament to elect a new president within the constitutional deadline,” he said during his Christmas message to the Lebanese people, adding that the candidate for the country’s top post should “be up to the current unique and historic stage.”

Rai added that the new president should work to restore the prerogatives of the head of the state and reduce divisions between political rivals.

“The program of the new president should consist of filling the gaps previous experiences have revealed in the prerogatives of the president and work to build national unity through reconciliation between the rival political groups,” Rai said.

The head of the Maronite Catholic Church added that the new president should “revive loyalty to Lebanon and distance it from regional conflicts while restoring its role in the Arab and international communities.”

According to Lebanon’s National Pact, the president must be a Maronite Christian.

The term of President Michel Sleiman ends in May 2014. However, political deadlock in the country has raised concern that the presidential election might not be held on time.

Rai also reiterated the need to form a new government in the country.

“Officials should preserve peace by forming a constitutional Cabinet capable of ensuring real peace based on honesty between the rival parties,” he said.

The cardinal, speaking from Bkirki, also called for controlling illegitimate weapons in Lebanon.

“Peace and stability require the authorities to control illegitimate arms and prevent any violation against citizens or their properties,” he said.

The cardinal also urged citizens and authorities to safeguard Lebanese property and refrain from selling any land to foreigners.

“Our land is the land of coexistence; our land gave us our identity ... selling land is a crime and is a betrayal to Lebanese identity and history,” Rai said.

“The state should control the sale of land owned by Lebanese to foreigners and investors should preserve their lands to protect their historic identity and invest them for development projects to contribute to the country's economy,” he said.

Rai also said the Maronite Church objects to any sale of land to foreigners and voiced willingness “to help [the Lebanese] through our institutions in order to invest in their land and live from it.”

The cardinal also reiterated his appeal for the release of kidnapped bishops and nuns in Syria.

“You are our Eid and Christmas. Don’t be afraid, we are proud of your jihad and we call on the Arab and international conscious to work for your release,” he said.

Twelve Syrian nuns were seized by rebels last month in Syria’s Maaloula. Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped in April while traveling to Aleppo from the Turkish border.

Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman expressed hope Christmas would hold the opportunity for Lebanon to overcome the political impasse and resolve the humanitarian crisis, a statement from his office said. Lebanon hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the region.

Sleiman also called for bolstering security measures in the country during the holiday season so that citizens “can practice their religious duties in peace and tranquility.”

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