Lebanon cleric praises Obama's speech, but calls for action

Fadlallah also criticized US allies in the region for being undemocratic.

carter and shiite arab 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
carter and shiite arab 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
US President Barack Obama's speech reaching out to Muslims had strong points, Lebanon's most influential Shi'ite cleric told former president Jimmy Carter, but people were waiting for real results. Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah made the comments Tuesday night during a meeting at his office with Carter, who was in Lebanon to monitor last weekend's parliamentary elections. In his speech in Cairo on June 4, Obama promised to work aggressively to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called for a halt to Israeli settlement construction on lands claimed by the Palestinians and spoke of the need for a Palestinian state. Fadlallah, widely believed to have been Hizbullah's spiritual leader in the 1980s, is a harsh critic of US policies in the Middle East, which many Arabs believe are biased toward Israel. Though he has since distanced himself from the group, he has followers worldwide among Shi'ites, including in Iraq. Fadlallah also criticized US allies in the region for being undemocratic. "The friends of the United States in the Arab world don't have elections or democracy, but [rather] regimes that are run by intelligence agencies and emergency laws," said a statement released by Fadlallah's office, in an apparent reference to US allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. During a visit to Lebanon in December, Carter said he would have been "delighted" to meet with Hizbullah officials and that he regretted the group's leaders' refusal to meet with current or former American presidents. Fadlallah has survived several assassination attempts, including a car bombing on March 8, 1985, in which 80 people were killed. Carter later arrived in Syria, where he is expected to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. Carter met Mashaal twice last year. Meanwhile, Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Gibran Bassil claimed on Tuesday that according to a recent investigation, Israel garbled cellular networks in Southern Lebanon, beginning three days before the June 7 parliamentary elections. Speaking at a press conference, Bassil said that following the probe's findings, he had requested that Lebanon's foreign minister report the alleged disturbance to the relevant international bodies. "There are known sources of interference from the sea and air," he said, mentioning his appeal some two months ago to take notice of such possible interferences. Bassil added that land lines were also affected, although to a lesser degree. Lebanon's cellular networks are considered to be in a poor state, incapable of supporting the 1.8 million-strong subscribers nationwide.