Germany urges Lebanon to halt violence

AFP - [email protected] • 10 May, 2008 Updated Sat 10 May 2008 10:04 CEST
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Germany has called for an immediate end to the “power vacuum" in Lebanon, saying it was fuelling the tensions that pushed the country to the brink of a civil war this week.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after a telephone call with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Friday that he was "deeply concerned" about the deadly clashes between Sunni militants loyal to the Western-backed government and Shiite opposition gunmen.

"I urgently call on all parties to withdraw their armed factions, lay down their weapons and recognise the Lebanese state's exclusive right to use force," he said in a statement. "The developments of the last few days have shown that a resolution to the political conflict in Lebanon cannot wait any longer." Steinmeier said the parties represented in the Lebanese parliament agreed months ago on a presidential candidate who would be acceptable for all.

"They are now called upon to finally end the vacuum at the top of the state leadership," Steinmeier said. "The profound crisis in Lebanon can only be resolved with dialogue and in the framework of institutions that are laid out in the constitution. Part of this dialogue must be an agreement on disarming all the militias in Lebanon."

At least 11 people been killed and dozens more wounded in the street battles that erupted Thursday after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said a government crackdown on his Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim group was a declaration of war.

A long-running political standoff, which first broke in November 2006 when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet, has left the country without a president since November, when pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down. While the rival factions have agreed to army chief Michel Sleiman as a consensus candidate, they disagree on the make-up of the new cabinet and so far 18 sessions of parliament to choose a president have been cancelled.

Germany commands the naval component of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the separation of forces following the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon.



AFP 2008/05/10 10:04

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