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Open letter from Shatah was first draft of collective March 14 effort
File photo shows slain former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
File photo shows slain former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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BEIRUT: A document published over the weekend and purported to be an open letter to Iran’s president by assassinated former finance minister Mohammed Shatah is authentic, but was only a first draft of a collective effort involving the whole March 14 movement and eventually the Maronite patriarchate, a Future MP said. “It was under discussion,” Future MP Ammar Houri said.

The Wall Street Journal published the open letter after Shatah’s assassination Sunday, saying it was drafted by him but hadn’t been signed yet by MPs in his party. In the letter, Shatah, an adviser to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to keep Lebanon neutral regarding the conflict in Syria and end Lebanese armed participation in the war, including by Hezbollah.

The proposal also called for the border with Syria to be exclusively under the control of the Lebanese Army and for a permanent cease-fire on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.

Houri said the letter was an initial draft that was the result of discussions within the March 14 bloc, and that the opinion of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai was also going to be sought.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, when asked by a correspondent for Tasnim, a media outlet close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps., about the open letter from Shatah, said: “This letter was an open letter and anyone who wants can write an open letter.”

“But no official letter in this case arrived to our hands,” she added. “And I think in publishing this letter in this way [as an open letter] is a kind of mischief.”

The Tasnim news website later took down the report, though news of the open letter continued to be published by Iranian media outlets.

Houri declined to comment on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s response to the letter.

Houri’s comments suggest the March 14 bloc was interested in a rapprochement with Iran, which backs Hezbollah, on the condition the party ends its involvement in Syria’s war.

Shatah was killed Friday after a car bomb in Downtown Beirut detonated as he passed by in his vehicle.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 31, 2013, on page 3.
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