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    Lebanon Renaissance Foundation and the Aspen Institute Hold Unprecedented Conference on US-Lebanese Relations

     

    The Lebanon Renaissance Foundation and the Aspen Institute on Friday held an unprecedented conference on US-Lebanese relations under the new American administration.

    The conference was attended by the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, former Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, and former Ambassadors to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman and Theodore Kattouf.

    Also attending were Lebanese figures such as Minister of State Nassib Lahoud and MPs Nayla Mouawad, Ghazi Yussef, Ghinwa Jaloul, Antoine Zahra and Ghassan Mkheiber, in addition to researchers and journalists.

    The head of the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, Eli Khoury, highlighted, in the conference’s opening speech, the third anniversary of the assassination of journalist and MP Gebran Tueni. Khoury outlined the goals of the foundation, which was established in 2005 “to confront the many challenges that Lebanon faces, after the Lebanese decided on their country’s independence that year.”

    Lahoud, in his speech, discussed UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which demands that Syrian withdraw militarily from Lebanon; UNSCR 1701, which aims to revive the 1949 armistice between Lebanon and Israel; and UNSCR 1757, which established the Special Tribunal into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
    Lahoud called for merging Hezbollah’s weapons into the Lebanese Armed Forces, and turning Hezbollah into a political party. He also questioned Hezbollah’s decision to maintain its arms following the Israeli military withdrawal from the South in 2000.
    Lahoud said that borders with Syria should be demarcated, and he called for working to close the file on Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.
    Lahoud emphasized the importance of US support for the Lebanese army, stressing the fact that “the support that we are asking for is not for an alliance…but for Lebanon, regardless of who  governs in Washington or in Beirut.”

    Albright, for her part, inaugurated the first session of the conference, and discussed the upcoming changes in Washington with the arrival of a new administration in the White House. She also touched on the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, as well as the Israeli -Palestinian peace process.

    Feltman, in his speech, said that America did not seek to replace Syrian and Iranian influence, but rather aimed to support the Lebanese government and its independent decision-making process.
    He addressed the Lebanese by calling on them not to panic because American support for Lebanon was a fixture in American policy and this support was made permanent by international resolutions.
    He said that any US administration would persist in opposing the terrorism and its arms, and he accused Hezbollah of making up threats to justify maintaining its weapons.

    Kattouf, in his speech, hailed the role and principles of the “March 14 Movement,” which he described as an inspiration to democratic movements all around the world. 
    “Hezbollah has proved its ability to topple the entire regime… Apparently it is an undemocratic party,” he added.

    Indyk, for his part, said that Washington should “support the Israeli-Syrian indirect peace negotiations, but without sacrificing Lebanon.”
    “We have to participate in supporting these negotiations to make sure Lebanon’s independence is preserved,” he said, before adding that negotiations between Beirut and Tel Aviv should be resumed with American and international support. 

    NOW Lebanon
    12.12.2008

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