Monday, February 8, 2010

Lebanese speaker, Shiite leaders seek boycott of Arab summit

Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri has called for the boycott of the Arab summit next month in Libya, a country that Shiites blame for the disappearance of top scholar Imam Musa Sadr 31 years ago.

"I personally stand with the boycott, but only President Michel Suleiman can decide on Lebanon's participation in Libya's Arab League Summit," Berri said on Wednesday following a meeting with the Lebanese president.

"I do not decide for him, and His Excellency the President knows very well that there is a Lebanese court ruling against Libya and Libyan leaders. His Excellency of course respects the Lebanese judiciary and the feelings of the Lebanese people," he said.

Berri was referring to a 2008 Lebanese prosecutor's charging of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and six other Libyan officials in the disappearance of Sadr and his two companions.

However, keen on the success of the summit, Arab league Secretary General Amr Moussa has been holding talks with Lebanese officials to ensure Lebanon's participation on March 27 amid concerns that the boycott would be strongly advocated by Shiite leaders and would set a precedent.

Last week, Shaikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, Lebanon's deputy head of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, urged Lebanon to boycott the Arab Summit, describing Libya as “a hostile and tyrant state.”

Beirut media reported that Qablan said that all the Arab countries should use the occasion "to put pressure on Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi to reveal the truth about Imam Sadr before the summit takes place."

Al Sadr's case has been a long-standing sore issue between Tripoli and Beirut. Lebanon blames Gaddafi and his aides for the disappearance of Sadr and the imam's two companions during a trip to Libya in 1978 amid wide beliefs that they were killed after a dispute with the Libyan leader.

However, Tripoli insists that the Lebanese delegation had left the country on a flight to Rome at the end of their visit and believes that the imam was victim of an inter-Shiite power struggle.


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