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Aoun: Assad will not fall, Hariri at fault on maritime debacle
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BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun ruled out Tuesday the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“There is no [country] in the world that wants regime change in Syria,” Aoun told the reporters.

Speaking after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform bloc in Rabieh, Aoun praised recent statements from Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai on Christians in the Middle East, adding that they reflect the true fears of minorities in the region.

“Rai’s statements express the concerns of the minorities because he is entrusted with the Synod for the Middle East,” said Aoun.

Aoun also called for peaceful change in Syria to avoid further bloodshed in the country. “Gradual changes doesn’t harm stability and wouldn’t get Syria into the [same] troubles as Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Yemen,” the FPM leader said.

As pro-democracy demonstrations in Syria enter their seventh month, the Syrian regime has continued its brutal crackdown, describing protesters as religious extremists and terrorists.

However, demonstrators across Syria have not backed down from their demands, escalating their calls from political reforms to bringing down the Syrian regime.

According to Aoun, some of the Syrian demonstrators are armed and they are bringing destruction to the country. “The Syrian government cannot but bring order to the country,” said Aoun, adding that the majority of Syrians have accepted the government’s reforms.

Aoun also called for putting former Prime Minister Saad Hariri on trial for not approving the demarcation of Lebanon’s maritime borders.

“Had he sent the approval of the demarcation to his Cabinet, we would have been done with this maritime story by now,” he said, calling Hariri a “refugee” in Europe.

The Lebanese government agreed on the demarcation of Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone Monday, three months after the Israeli government approved their own version of the borders.

The Lebanese government had described the Israeli move as an “aggression” against its natural gas and oil rights in the Mediterranean Sea, as both countries make future plans to drill for oil and gas in the maritime area between them.

Lebanon shares maritime borders with Turkey, Cyprus, Palestine and Israel. The dispute with Israel over a maritime area that spans some 860 square kilometers is an obstacle to developing oil and gas projects.

Several offshore drilling companies have reportedly expressed fears that it would be difficult to carry out projects in the disputed area.

President Michel Sleiman, who flew to New York Tuesday, is set to press Lebanon’s demarcation of its EEZ in the Mediterranean during his meetings on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week.

Commenting on Palestine’s bid for full U.N. membership this week, Aoun said that Friday’s meeting at the U.N. is “very important.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 21, 2011, on page 2.
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