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Rai says prompt Cabinet formation needed

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai gives an address during the enthronement of Syria's Greek Orthodox leader Yuhanna X Yazigi at the Holy Cross church in Damascus, during the first visit by a Maronite patriarch since Syrian independence in 1943, on February 10, 2013. AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA

BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai has called for the swift formation of a new Cabinet and slammed politicians for involving Lebanon in the crisis in neighboring Syria.

“We are going through critical circumstances, and [politicians] should work today before tomorrow to form a Cabinet, with a third of the Lebanese people now under the poverty line and the number of Syrian refuges in Lebanon has exceeded a million,” Rai said.

The influential head of the Maronite Church spoke from Sao Paolo, Brazil, at a luncheon Friday.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who was nominated on April 6, has yet to form the new government.

A source close to Salam told The Daily Star Friday that the Beirut MP was waiting for responses from the March 8 coalition to his proposals concerning the makeup and role of the new Cabinet.

Rai, who is on a visit to South America, also lashed out at Lebanese politicians for not distancing the country from the crisis in Syria.

“We will not accept manipulating the fate of Lebanon which our ancestors built with their blood ... It is unacceptable for politicians in Lebanon to destroy what their ancestors have built and involve Lebanon into regional and international conflicts,” he said.

“Lebanon has never supported war and we refuse that war stems from this country as we refuse that the country becomes a channel for weapons and a land of fire,” Rai added.

Rai also said that Bkirki had an essential role to play in preserving good ties with all sects in Lebanon and the Arab world and called for preserving Muslim-Christian coexistence in the region.

“The ties we build with Muslims in the Arab world stems from conviction that each of us adds value to the other and we should preserve that and work to stop the use of arms in the Arab world,” he said.

The cardinal also reiterated his rejection to postponing the elections and slammed politicians for failing to agree on a new law to replace the “1960 law” that was used in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

“It is not acceptable to reach the date of the parliamentary elections after four years of studies without having a new, fair law for the elections,” he said.

His comments come a day after he sent an emissary to Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt with a clear message demanding that the June parliamentary elections be held on time.

Lawmakers from the March 8 and March 14 camps have failed in several rounds of talks to agree on a new electoral formula to replace the so-called 1960 law, which governed the last round of polls in 2009.

 

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