After trying to set the record straight, the Qornet Shehwan Gathering found itself on the defensive over the weekend, earning criticism for its most recent pronouncement on addressing ties with Syria.
Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh on Sunday rejected Qornet Shehwan’s latest stance and used the word “whore” in an indirect slight of his detractors, while Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt took issue with some of the “vagueness” of the opposition group’s statement, issued after a daylong conclave on Friday.
MPs from the Baath Party and the Amal Movement also criticized the statement, which rejected accusations that Qornet Shehwan members were relying on foreign powers to pressure Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and made a call for President Emile Lahoud to sponsor national political dialogue.
Qornet Shehwan member and Batroun MP Butros Harb said the group had been obliged to expose the “false conspiracy of accusing (us) of being traitors” and decried the country’s political malaise.
“The lethargy from which the political situation suffers is dangerous. We must launch a mechanism for national dialogue, complementing the initiative by President Emile Lahoud,” Harb said Sunday.
But Franjieh dismissed this, reiterating accusations that the group was trying to monopolize the Christian political arena.
“I have no personal problem with anyone and no opponents except political ones,” Franjieh said during the inauguration of a stadium in Zghorta. “They accuse me of being sectarian, and there’s a saying that goes ‘how eloquent the whore when she pretends to be virtuous,’” Franjieh said. “It’s easy for someone to take one part out of a long television interview and interpret it the way he wants. But the Lebanese people, and particularly the Muslims, are aware of Suleiman Franjieh’s goals.”
Franjieh was referring to his appearance last week on MTV, which saw his detractors accuse him of sectarianism for saying Lebanese Christians depended on Syria for political protection opponents like Qornet Shehwan member and Zghorta MP Nayla Mouawad said Franjieh had no faith in Muslim Lebanese as supporters of coexistence.
“I find it strange that a meeting that lasted for nine hours could only produce a response to a television interview a week earlier,” Franjieh said.
Saying he wished that Qornet Shehwan had produced a definitive stance on the Maronite World Congress in Los Angeles or the Antelias rally on Aug. 7, Franjieh accused the opposition members of being divided and treacherous to one another.
“Instead, each one went out by himself and said he had nothing to do with Los Angeles and this is not to mention the information we have about them talking about each other.
“I wish they had issued a single statement on this issue (Los Angeles) or on Antelias; instead they only produced a resolution that rejects sharing the Christian scene with anyone else.”
The Zghorta politician argued that Qornet Shehwan, which appeared to draw its main strength from Mount Lebanon, was reflecting an older bias against other regions.
“If you go back into history of the Maronites or the Christians, the Christians of Mount Lebanon were always the authors of a (given) project while the Christians of the peripheral regions were the ‘soldiers.’”
We don’t accept seeing the Christians of the periphery as soldiers for some crazy Christians from Mount Lebanon,” Franjieh said, summarizing the plans of others as leading to “destruction, exile or the grave.”
Jumblatt, meanwhile, said he agreed with parts while other sections were “vague” and required clarification.
Speaking Saturday in the Bekaa, Jumblatt said the Qornet Shehwan statement, while reiterating national principles, had “vague parts that I was frankly unable to comprehend.” Jumblatt disclosed that he was set to meet with a number of groups this week and would “interpret” the statement with them.
In discussing Lebanon’s need for strong ties with Syria, Jumblatt said such types of “security integration” should be considered normal, citing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a similar model for “so-called advanced countries.”
Addressing the “debate taking place today” about sovereignty, Jumblatt affirmed that the Taif Accord was in fact governing Lebanese-Syrian ties.