Aoun opts for peace, dialogue with Syria (UPI) VIA-WASHINGTON TIMES) By Claude Salhani - Washington, DC 05/09/05)
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Washington, DC, May. 9 (UPI) -- Gen. Michel Aoun, a Maronite
Christian whom some Lebanese regard as a renegade, others as a
savior and who sees himself as the next president of Lebanon,
returned to a hero´s welcome Saturday after a 15-year exile in
Shortly after his arrival in Beirut, Aoun spoke with United Press
International by cellular telephone. He discussed some of his plans
for the future of the country.
"Democracy comes first," Aoun told United Press International. The
former general and one-time prime minister explained that before
Lebanon could become fully democratic, it would have to abandon its
corrupt "old ways."
"Changes are important if Lebanon is to change for the better," said
Aoun to UPI. "The Lebanese must change their ways; they must move
away from the bad old habits."
Aoun said he would focus his energy on building a "new Lebanon."
"Lebanon´s archaic, feudal and religious fanaticism as well as
rampant corruption that in the past has destroyed the people must be
done away with," Aoun said.
Addressing reports that he intends to run for the presidency, the
former Lebanese army general said: "One must not aim for a specific
post, or position. One must plan for a new society."
Aoun, who many blame for some of the worst fighting and violence of
the Lebanese civil war, said he held great love for the Lebanese
people. "I felt very emotional upon my return."
A crowd of some 400,000 people, according to Aoun supporters,
greeted him Saturday in Freedom Square, previously Martyr´s Square
and the site where monster anti-Syrian demonstrations were held
after the Feb. 14 killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Aoun, who was ousted by the Syrians in 1990, lobbied Washington for
support in his quest to have Damascus remove its forces from
Lebanon. He played a primary role in convincing the Bush
administration to pass the Syria Accountability and Lebanese
Sovereignty Act of 2003, meant to impose economic sanctions on
His actions brought accusations from the Lebanese pro-Syrian
government of trying to foment discord between the two countries and
of trying to incite religious discord.
"I have harmed no one. I have good intentions," Aoun told UPI. He
indicated he wished peace with Syria.
"There is much Syria and Lebanon can profit from each other," he
Aoun said now that Syria has quit Lebanon, his problems with
Damascus are over.
"I have already pardoned those who fought me," Aoun told UPI.
The general said however, that his former enemies will not be
recompensed unless they prove themselves.
"If they, those who opposed us, want to work with us in rebuilding
the country, I am ready to work with them. I have good intentions
for Lebanon," he told UPI.
"Peace cannot be waged by one side alone," Aoun said. "War can be
waged by one side, but not peace. I hope Syria opts for peace."
(Copyright 2005 United Press International 05/09/05)
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