File- Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, center, meets with MP Mohammad Raad, left, and Hezbollah politburo member Ghaleb Abu Zeinab in Diman, north Lebanon, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)
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A Hezbollah delegation is expected to visit Bkirki soon for talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai on political issues, including the presidential election, as part of "constant contacts" between the party and the Maronite Church, a senior Hezbollah official said Sunday. However, the Hezbollah delegation's forthcoming visit to Bkirki comes amid a heated controversy over Rai's planned trip to occupied Jerusalem later this month, a sensitive issue that is likely to figure high in the talks between the two sides. Hezbollah has so far remained tight-lipped on Rai's planned trip. Abu Zeinab is part of a four-member dialogue committee set up by former Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir in 1993 tasked with narrowing differences between the two sides on sensitive issues such as Hezbollah's arms, the building of a strong state and Syria's role in Lebanon before Damascus withdrew its army in April 2005 .The committee's meetings came to a halt after the church's ties with Hezbollah were strained when Sfeir began launching scathing verbal attacks on Syria's role in Lebanon and Hezbollah's arms, accusing the party of running a state within a state and preventing the rise of one powerful nation.However, Bkirki-Hezbollah ties began to improve with the election of Bishop Beshara Rai in 2011 as the new patriarch replaced Sfeir.
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