News from Beirut September 27  2001   ...Search

French-speaking summit to go ahead unless "urgent event": Lebanon

BEIRUT, Sept 27 (AFP) - Lebanon said Thursday that the summit of  French-speaking nations will go ahead as scheduled at the end of October, unless some world "urgent event" occurs following the terrorist attacks on the United States. "We consider that the situation in Lebanon is secure and stable. For us, there is no reason to postpone the Francophone summit," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters.

Aridi said that "if some urgent event occurs on the international scene, then of course the agenda and programs of participating heads of states will not be in our hands and priorities will change." "If something political, diplomatic or on the security front happens ... then there will be other priorities," said Aridi after a late weekly cabinet session, as hundreds staged a labor protest outside against tax raises.

Culture Minister Ghassan Salameh, entrusted with the organization of the October 26-28 summit of French-speaking states, said this week that the holding of the meeting was linked to the timing of the next UN General Assembly which some believe could take place around the same period.

The United Nations has decided to indefinitely postpone its annual General Assembly session that had been scheduled to begin on Monday because of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Lebanon blasts as "unacceptable" Berlusconi's anti-Muslim remarks

BEIRUT, Sept 27 (AFP) - Lebanon denounced on Thursday as "unacceptable" remarks by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that western civilization is superior to all others, including Islam. "This issue ... is unacceptable," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters after a late cabinet session. "We cannot accept that the issue becomes a confrontation between two civilizations or a war between the Muslims and the Christians," he said, referring to expected US retaliation for the September 11 terror strikes.

Aridi said the government had asked Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmud Hammud to meet with the Italian ambassador in Beirutto to "clarify the issue and the reasons for such remarks and so that we can adopt the suitable position." Briefing Italian journalists travelling with him to Berlin, Berlusconi said on Wednesday that the West "should be confident of the superiority of our civilization."

Berlusconi also urged Europe to "reconstitute itself on the basis of its Christian roots," and concluded that "our civilization is superior to Islam." "Even the Americans, who are the concerned party in this issue and who were directly hit, did not say such remarks of such size and in that way," said Aridi of the hijacked jetliner attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington. "In the contrary, when a slur happened, they took the initiative to correct it," said Aridi, apparently referring to US President Georges W. Bush's use of the word "crusade" over the expected retaliation that angered the Arab and Muslim world.

Aridi praised Washington for its "action which is still ongoing on the ground because there are reprisals against Arabs and Muslims" in the United States. Washington has promised to wage an international war against terrorism following the terrorist attacks which it attributes to Saudi-born Islamic figure Osama ben Laden, who is believed to be in Afghanistan.

The Cairo-based Arab League also denounced earlier Thursday Berlusconi's "racist" remarks and demanded an apology from the Italian government.

Lebanon Sunni body calls for pursuing intifada against Israel

BEIRUT, Sept 27 (AFP) - The top Sunni Muslim authority in Lebanon called Thursday on the Palestinians to pursue their uprising against Israel and insisted on making a difference between resistance and terrorism. Dar el-Fatwa "hailed the steadfastedness of the militant Palestinian people and declared its backing for continuing the blessed intifada, which allowed the nation to regain confidence in itself and its capabilities to achieve victory."

The Sunni body, which groups Lebanon's Sunni muftis, denounced in a statement the September 11 terror attacks on the United States as an "aggression against human, moral and religious values." But Dar el-Fatwa said that "this act cannot be attributed to any religion.

It cannot be attributed ... to Muslims, or to Islam, because Islam as everyone knows is a religion of compassion before anything else." "The word terrorism ... needs a clear and exact explanation because there is a need to differentiate between absolute violence that it solely for the purpose of evil and destruction" and between resistance and self-defense.

On September 21, Lebanon's Shiite and Sunni leaders had expressed shock at the terror attacks but voiced their opposition to joining the US coalition against terror.


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