BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Saturday urged Libya to disclose the fate of a Lebanese imam who disappeared almost 32 years ago.
“Where are Imam Moussa al-Sadr and his companions? We need to answer this question,” Sleiman said during an interview with reporters.
Iranian-born Lebanese Imam Moussa al-Sadr, together with his two companions Mohammad Yaqoub and Abbas Badreddine, disappeared without trace during an official trip to Libya in August 1978. The Lebanese widely blame Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for ordering the men’s disappearance, but Tripoli has denied the allegations. Libya has claimed Sadr, who was also the spiritual and political leader of the Movement of the Deprived (Amal) in Lebanon, had already left for Italy before going missing.
The issue remains a serious point of contention between the two countries. Gadhafi, who has not visited Lebanon since Sadr went missing, was indicted in August 2008 by the Lebanese government for the imam’s disappearance. Six other Libyans were also indicted in the case.
Sleiman’s remarks come ahead of next month’s Arab League summit, which is to be held in Libya for the first time. The choice of location has prompted a number of Shiite religious and political figures, including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, to urge a Lebanese boycott of the summit unless Libya is more cooperative on the issue Sadr’s disappearance.
On Sunday, senior Amal official Khaleel Hamdan repeated his party’s demand for the boycott, saying that Sadr’s disappearance “targeted all Lebanese, Arabs and Muslims alike.”
Earlier this month, Berri, who is also the current leader of the Amal party, said that while only Sleiman was entitled to decide whether Lebanon should attend the summit, he “personally” favored a boycott.
State Minister Adnan As-Sayyed Hussein on Friday echoed calls for a boycott, telling Voice of Lebanon radio station the Shiites were “committed to finding out the truth behind … Sadr’s disappearance.”
Last Thursday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement said they supported Lebanese participation in the summit, adding that any developments in the delicate political situation in the Middle East would have particular repercussions in Lebanon.
In a visit to Beirut last week, head of the Arab League Amr Moussa said that Lebanon would take part in the summit, but noted Lebanese officials were still debating the level of representation.
His remarks drew criticism from Vice President of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, who on Friday said any Lebanese or Syrian participation would be a “catastrophe.”
“You came to demand from the government that it participate in the summit,” Qabalan told worshippers during a Friday prayer sermon addressing Moussa.
“But why don’t you call for an Arab summit to resolve the issue of Imam Sadr’s disappearance before demanding our participation?”
He added: “Lebanon’s only condition for participating in the summit, irrespective of the level of representation, is that the issue of Sadr be discussed publicly in the opening session and before the media.”