Exclusive WSN interview with Bilal Sharara, Secretary General of the Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Commission in Lebanon

Posted in Broader Middle East | 06-Mar-05 | Author: Manuela Paraipan

Lebanese pro-opposition demonstrators wave national flags as they gather in front central Beirut's Mohammed Al-Amin mosque, near the gravesite of slain former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, during an anti-Syria rally in downtown Beirut.

Mr. Bilal Sharara, who is a member of the Lebanese Parliament and is currently the Secretary General of the Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Commission, is the author of "Concealing Intentions", which deals with American foreign policy in the Middle East region and "Turkey and Israel - Worrying Questions and Answers", a book on Israeli-Turkish relations and its impact on the Arab world. He has also written a book on the Sabra and Shatila tragedy.

WSN Correspondent "Broader Middle East" Manuela Paraipan spoke exclusively with Mr. Sharara.

WSN: Why did Prime Minister Karameh's government resign? It was a sudden move. Apparently, both President Lahoud and Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House, were taken by surprise.

SHARARA: In all countries, when somebody dies, especially an official or an important person, the last thing to do is resign. However, in Lebanon, the government - even though it is not responsible for Hariri's death - should have resigned a long time ago. Karameh's decision was a late one. The Lebanese Assembly assumed its role of debating with the government, but before all deputies took the floor, (the ones in the opposition spoke in the morning), Karameh surprised everyone with his resignation. He presented his political reasons but there are some things he didn't mention. We have to wait and see, as he should talk.

WSN: Who is likely to become the next prime minister of the transitional government? What sort of government will it most likely be? Will it be a confessional one?

SHARARA: There are many speculations concerning the upcoming government. Some are talking about the staying of this government, as it would be a government of works liquidation, or a “neutral one". But we do not know at this point in time if there can really be a neutral government in Lebanon. Others are talking about a military government, which most people oppose and find controversial. We don't know yet what type of government there will be. In addition, the president has not called for parliamentary consultations to appoint the new cabinet.

WSN: What is your opinion on UN Resolution 1559 and the Taef Accord? As you know, both the Taef and UNSCR 1559 are asking for the same things: Syria's complete withdrawal from Lebanon and the disarming of all militias that extend Syrian control over the government of Lebanon and all Lebanese territory.

SHARARA: Regarding UN Resolution 1559, I agree with the Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House. As for the Taef Accord, all people are calling for its application. We believe it is the only solution.

WSN: The Lebanese peaceful Intifada started after former Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated. Who do you think has something to gain from this assassination?

SHARARA: First of all, there is no Lebanese Intifada. It is the Lebanese people who want to know who killed Hariri. We are convinced that Syria didn't do it - it would be a suicidal act. There are no winners in Lebanon. Everyone is hit by this assassination. We think his killing is the sequel to the strategy to spread chaos throughout the Middle East, or what we call "the chaos spread in the Middle East initiative". However, Hariri's death might have a long-term objective: The implanting of the Palestinian people in Lebanon.

WSN: What is Amal's position vis-à-vis the Druze, Sunni and Christian opposition?

SHARARA: Amal is not taking sides. It is a political party that had been in favor of or against governments, depending on the circumstances.

WSN: Will Amal join the opposition, or is it more likely to join forces with Hezbollah?

SHARARA: If there would be a military government, Amal would certainly be against it. We want a civilian one. The Amal party would probably join forces with Hezbollah in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Amal will participate in any national dialogue with all parties and confessions at the Assembly. We want the creation of a national commission composed of parliamentarians and jurists to complete the items of Taef. Implementation of the Taef Accord would make a statement about the next government.

WSN: In the light of the latest events in Beirut, are we witnessing a new phase of Lebanese-Syrian relations?

SHARARA: Lebanese-Syrian relations should be in total agreement with the Taef Accord. Everyone sustains this in Lebanon - even the opposition and its "allies". Syria is a neighboring country. We have political relations important common interests. What we need today is to set these relations on the right track.

WSN: Can peace emerge in the Middle East without Syria's participation?

SHARARA: Certainly there will be no peace in the Middle East without Syria. Syria is the key to war or peace in the Middle East region.

WSN: Thank you, Sir for your comments.