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Wednesday Night Live!

Paul Coletti | 17:49 UK time, Wednesday, 22 November 2006

We discussed tonight the precarious state of Lebanon. Read on for some of the a selection of the best comment . . .

Lebanon on the edge?

A text is in straight away from regular listener Lubna in Iraq: “The idea that Syria is responsible for this crime is just like a person putting a knife into his chest.”

We have three listeners in Syria: Hanadi, Ashraf and Zane.

Hanadi: “Everything was closed. Everyone was depressed.”

Zane: “It was one of those dead days in Beirut. The country is always struggling to live normally.”

Hanadi: “People are divided between the March 14 and Hizbollah. March 14 blame Syria and the others blame America. I don’t think the Syrian regime is that stupid. You don’t know who to blame.”

Text from Mansour of Monrovia.
“Only Syria will benefit from another War in Lebanon.”

Hanadi: “We are actually living a civil war. WE had a killing the other day. It is a war. It will be like Iraq. People are divided like in 1975 – East Beirut and West Beirut.”

Zane: “We have to find who did it without speculating. I would not panic so much.”

Professor George Joffe joins us: “A few days ago some ministers opposed a tribunal on Hariri. They are represented by an alternative power base in the country which is trying to undermine Siniora’s government. An explanation for the killing is not quite as clear as one would think. The killing helps and supports Hizbollah and its allies – some of them Christian.”

Toni is a TV executive in Lebanon: “The father of Pierre in a high emotional state called for calm and for people to stay off the streets. When we have this kind of approach . . .we are a mature country . . .we can resolve our issues politically.”

Ashraf: “I disagree with Toni. We have not matured at all. The same rulers who waged civil war are the same leaders who rule us now.

Toni: “These leaders are calling for calm and calling for the population to stay in control. We don’t war any more. We in the Christian community who took a blow with this assassination do not want to fight other Lebanese people.”

Someone said: “The assassins just want to provoke a civil war” and most agreed.

George Joffe provides analysis: “The same leaders are by and large still in charge as were there during the civil war. The original civil war was a struggle involving alien groups inside the country. On this occasion we are looking at something new – the role of Hizbollah inside Lebanon.”

We hope to have the Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar Jaafari, on later so please stay tuned . . .

Krikor is in Beirut: “There are two ways to ask a question. Who do we blame? Who is responsible? It is too early to say who is to blame. I don’t think Syria has anything to do with it.”

George Joffe: Lebanon has always been a proxy arena for others. Mr Gemayel’s killing could be argued as an excuse for Israel to start instability. You could argue that it’s an internal struggle between muslim and Christian. It’s the place where other people argue out their disputes. The arguments of the past have largely been abandoned.

Ashraf is in Beirut: “We always say Lebanon is an arena for others – that’s a misconception.”

George Joffe: “People try to marginalise and exclude Lebanon but it does have a useful function where people can argue out their wars.”

We’re back from the news with Dr Bashar Jaafari in a few minutes. Text us on +44 7786206080.

A text is in from Ganiyu from Nigeria: “It is a sad moment for the people of Lebanon.This is the right time for the so called big powers to aid Lebanon to stand on its own.”

Alia is Lebanese but now lives in Mozambique: “Pierre Gemayel was a young minister silenced by a cowardly act.”

Dr Raghid El Sohl: “Even the killing of former PM Hariri is under investigation . . it is premature to reach a final judgement on this issue. Some accuse the Syrians, some accuse the Israelis. It is not in the interest of the Syrians to commit such an atrocious crime.”

Ambassador Bashar Jaafari has joined us. We’re listening to an interview with the Beeb’s Jeremy Bowen and Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated former PM Rafik Hariri.

Ambassador: “Usually we do not comment on personal speculations. My government officially speaking condemned this assassination. I condemn it as well. For us the issue is a principled diplomacy.


Ian in Washington: “Would you support the expansion of the UN Hariri investigation team into the murder of Mr Gemayel?”

Ambassador Jaafari: “The security council is not a theatre. It deals mainly with the issues related to peace and security. Although the crime is horrible I think the council has been dealing with the Hariri issue for some time. It is not practical to bring a new issue onto the agenda of the security council. It goes beyond its 1559 & 1595 resolutions.

“Let us remember the days before the killing of Pierre Gemayel. Some of the government resigned for domestic reasons. We are inviting everybody to think twice about this issue. One of the reasons why we think Pierre was killed was to pr3event the opposition from taking to the street because once they go to the street the balance of power would be largely in favour of the opposition.”

Mirek in Poland responds to the Ambassador: “I would like to point out: how come all major Lebanese politicians murdered in the last years are anti-Syria and anti-Hizbollah?”

Michael in Israel: “When will Syria understand that if it wants peace with Israel and to get the Golan heights back it must stop sending missiles to Hizbollah in breach of UN resolutions.”

Ambassador: “I will not answer this guest.”

Tetchy . . .but Rabiya is pressing him . . .

Ambassador: “I would like to remind you that after some reluctance, at the highest levels in Britain and elsewhere, Syria is part of the solution. We will be the bridge for reconciliation the region.”

Peter in Manchester, UK: “How can you say very politely Syria has nothing to do with it? Everyone can see Syria is involved. How many more people need to be killed?”

Rabs has picked up Peter on his assertion that it was Syria: “How can you be so sure?”

Peter : “Everyone knows it was involved . . how can you deny it? Don’t put the blame on Israel.”

Ambassador: “This is a very irresponsible approach. Syria has nothing to do with Lebanon. We fulfilled our part of 1559. Lebanon now is run by a huge foreign intervention represented by France and the US. I would remind the distinguished caller that just one month ago Al Akhbar – a newspaper -- stated that an Israeli person was arrested for dealing with weapons on the Lebanese coast. It’s not me reporting this.”

Alia: “The first political killing in Lebanon back in the 70’s was by Syria.”

George is in Chile: “I would like to remind there is not only Syrians in Lebanon. I don’t want to blame Israel or Syria. The US blames Syria for nearly everything, I’m Palestinian and I know the history of the killings in this region.”

Dr Raghid again: “I’d like to take issue with those who blame Syria exclusively. The opposition in Lebanon is gaining ground politically.”

Osama in Beirut: “This is a sad time in Lebanon. Syria can still play a constructive role in Lebanon.”

A text: “Is it not clear that Syria is carrying revenge killings of all the elements that forced Syria out of Lebanon? J’accuse Syria. “
Peter Bassey, Calabar, Nigeria.


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