Tensions rise between Hizbullah, Sfeir

Maronite leader tours Bekaa, is accused of "insulting" Islamist party.

June 21, 2010 10:50
1 minute read.
Lebanon's large Christian community is part of wha

lebanese reenacting jesus 311. (photo credit: AP)

Tensions arose Monday between Lebanese Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir and Islamist movement Hizbullah as the former conducted a historic visit to the country’s Shi’ite-dominated southern provinces.

Sfeir visited the Bekaa region and met with officials and residents in the eastern Lebanese city of Zahle, home to many Orthodox Christians. The tour marked the first such visit by a Maronite religious leader since Lebanon’s independence from the French mandate.

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The patriarch was given a warm welcome in Zahle, where a blast ripped through a car parts shop on the previous day, killing one person and wounding two others.

A Lebanese official said Sunday the three casualties were residents of Majdel Anjar, a town near the Syrian border where hard-line Sunni insurgents are known to be active. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations. He declined to give more details.

During Sfeir’s visit, meanwhile, the patriarch stressed the need for unity, in particular inter-Christian unity. “We call for … ties between neighbors and cooperating states,” Sfeir was quoted by the Lebanese Daily Star as saying.

On Friday, Hizbullah stated that Sfeir had offended the movement by referring to it as “so-called Hizbullah” during a Paris press conference last week. Sfeir also alleged that Lebanon had “difficulties” with “some countries like Iran, that has Hizbullah in Lebanon – with the latter possessing its own army while Lebanon’s neighbors continue to arm it.”

According to the Daily Star, Hizbullah termed Sfeir’s statement “an insult to the party.”

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