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Berri says Lebanon's neutrality should exclude Arab states
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session at the Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session at the Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri said Friday Lebanon should adopt a policy of neutrality except toward Arab states and its conflict with Israel.

His remarks came after meeting with a delegation from the Kataeb Party who are seeking to incorporate the policy of disassociation from regional turmoil into the Constitution.

“The neutrality we want cannot be taken from the principles of Austrian neutrality or one that reflects a foreign will,” Berri said in a statement released by his office after the meeting.

“In any case, the policy should include two exceptions: First related to Israel and second to the Arab countries because it is not acceptable to be neutral with Arab states that we are part of,” he said, proposing a new form of the disassociation policy.

The Kataeb delegation included lawmakers Sami Gemayel, Nadim Gemayel, Elie Marouni, Fadi Habr, and Samer Saadeh. The MPs are pushing for a full disassociation policy from conflicts in the region.

Lebanon’s rival leaders agreed during a National Dialogue session last year to adopt a policy of disassociation with regards to regional turmoil, particularly related to the conflict in Syria.

According to Berri’s office, “Neutrality was proposed during National Dialogue [sessions] and Speaker Nabih then took the same position as that of former Patriarch [Bulos] al-Maoushi in 1958 when he said that we in Lebanon are all seekers of neutrality, but a neutrality that Lebanon approves should be by our free will in agreement and harmony with all Arab countries.”

“But internationalization and neutrality decided abroad cannot be accepted at all because that would mean putting us all under mandate,” Berri's statement added.

Berri will study the proposal and make a decision on the issue, his office said.

The Kataeb delegation also met with the head of the Future Parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Siniora.

"No doubt, the Future bloc welcomes such a proposal although there were some notes that were taken into account for the final draft," Nadim Gemayel told reporters after his meeting with Siniora.

He added that the final version will be circulated among the various political bloc for their approval and signatures.

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