Lebanon News

March 14 wants to shelve talks on ending political sectarianism

EIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri’s call to initiate the abolition of political sectarianism was challenged for the second consecutive day as March 14 officials stressed the need to postpone discussions given a lack of consensus under the given circumstances. Beirut MP Ammar Houri said Friday the abolition of political sectarianism was a noble national and constitutional goal, but should be coupled with practices that would prepare for such a step withoutraising concerns. 
“We believe that [raising] the issue should be postponed,” Houri added. 
During a news conference Wednesday, Berri said the abolishment of political sectarianism was not optional, but rather mandatory in accordance with the Taif Accord, while underlining that participation in the committee was open to all religious sects, which would choose their own representatives. 
The speaker described as unjustified some parties’ claims that the formation of the committee required consensus. 
Houri said the Constitution stipulated that the process should be implemented in several phases. 
“The first phase is to work according to a step-by-step plan. The second is to guarantee that the required actions are taken by Parliament to reach that goal in light of the appropriate steps, including the right timing to form the committee tasked with the abolition of political sectarianism,” Houri said. 
The Future Movement MP further stressed that the issue necessitated the consensus of all Lebanese groups similarly to issues being tackled by the National Dialogue, a reference to a national defense strategy and Hizbullah’s weapons. 
On Thursday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the formation of a national committee tasked with the abolition of political sectarianism necessitated consensus by all Lebanese factions, which currently does not exist. 
March 14 groups have linked the formation of the committee to the full implementation of the 1989 Taif Accord, namely ensuring total state sovereignty and the exclusive authority over the possession of arms, a reference to Hizbullah and armed Palestinian factions. 
Asked whether the Parliament speaker’s  call was an attempt to stave off discussions regarding Hizbullah’s arsenal, Houri declined to level accusations of such a nature, but added that “the fact the issue of abolishing political sectarianism had been brought up under such circumstances would definitely lead to the belief that a trade was being proposed.” 
Meanwhile, Metn MP Sami Gemayel called for the establishment of a federal state as a guarantee for Christians in case political sectarianism were to be abolished. 
“The abolition of political sectarianism would lead to the rule of the predominant religious sect,” Gemayel said, adding that his Phalange Party “rejected the logic of [confrontation] that Speaker Nabih Berri adopted.” 
Jbeil MP Simon Abi Ramia, from the Free Patriotic Movement, said Berri’s call was rushed, since sectarianism governed the state’s cornerstones given the absence of a strong and capable state.





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