Lebanon + 1 more

Feature: Lebanese calls for peace, reconciliation in wake of unrest

News and Press Release
Originally published
BEIRUT, May 21, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Sitting in dark behind the counter of his shattered restaurant one day after a huge blast nearby rocked the neighborhood, the owner's face looked as sullen and gloomy as his lifeless restaurant itself.

On Sunday night, a bomb planted under a car blasted near the upscale ABC shopping mall in the prosperous Christian neighborhood of Achrafye in central Beirut, killing one woman and wounding a dozen others.

The explosion, besides destroying dozens of cars, also shattered windows in the six-floor shopping mall and within 150 meters. The two-story restaurant, only one road across the parking place and featured glass French windows, bore the brunt of the impact.

"Everything is gone. We have no electricity, no water, no generator, no fridge, no everything!" said the owner of the once- cozy Lebanese restaurant of Bazzar, which, had enjoyed good business because of its famous cheese pie.

"We had enough of explosions and bombs. We are fed up with all that. Would they just give us a break from it?" said the owner, who gave his name as Dabby.

Despite the anger, Dabby appealed for calmness instead of any retaliation.

"I don't blame on anyone. It is useless. I just hope things would go back on track and inshiallah (by God's will), we have business soon," he added.

Over the talks, Dabby became more cheered up. After all, the 55- year-old man has witnessed much in his life and even started talking about opening a business in China.

George, his lawyer, who came over to evaluate the loss, expressed agreement, adding, "yes, just 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's' as said in the Bible and let everybody live in peace. That's all."

Dabby's neighbor, the owner of a grocery store who gave his name as Phillipe, already started business, covering the hollow windows with plastic films. Talking about the blast, he said he felt outrages but he would not blame anyone unless with sound proof.

In the wake of the blast, which happened hours after a deadly fighting between the Lebanese army and the Fatah al-Islam faction in a Palestinian refugee camp in the northern city of Tripoli, a group which reportedly have ties with the al-Qaida group, some people have blamed the country's rival political forces and their foreign supporters for the incidents.

Houys, a Christian youth living at the neighborhood, said after the explosion that the fighting and explosion reminded him of the 1975-1990 civil war.

The young man said that the incident might have been caused by the country's pro-Syrian opposition, as part of their effort to derail the setting up of an international tribunal to try the suspects in former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's killing.

He said that he expected things to heat up, and he is not the only one holding such suspicions.

Ahmad Fatfat, the Minister of Youth and Sports, had also linked the fighting pitting the army against the Fatah al-Islam faction in the northern city of Tripoli, which some government officials say is backed by Syria, to the international tribunal.

Speaking to Lebanon's pro-government Future TV on Sunday, Fatfat said "there is someone trying to create security chaos to convey to the world such message: if the tribunal is established, there will be security trouble in Lebanon."

Lebanon, which is facing its worst political crisis since the end of the civil war, being locked in five-month power struggle between the anti-Syrian bloc and the pro-Syrian opposition, sees the tension flared up since last week over the issue of the international tribunal.

The United States, France and Britain, three veto-wielding powers of the 15-member UN Security Council, circulated on Thursday night a draft resolution that would endorse an agreement signed earlier by the United Nations and the Lebanese government on the establishment of the court.

The move came after Prime Minister Fouad Seniora sent on Monday a letter officially requesting the UN Security Council to move on the tribunal issue.

One day after that Lebanese President Emile Lahoud warned that a unilateral Security Council decision on the issue might cause instability in his country.

The country's parliamentary majority have long called for the establishment of the tribunal, but the pro-opposition have refused such a court, which they term as a western scheme to interfere with the country's internal affairs.

The current political impasse has caused a heavy toll on the economy and social life of the country, which is still reeling from last summer's Israeli-Hezbollah war.

Phillipe, the Christian, said he would not blame Syria for the unrest as he would not blame any others without solid proof, adding that Syria has become history in 2005 when its troops pulled out of Lebanon. Instead, he called on all Lebanese to deal with their own business, live and let live.

"Whenever there is an accident, there would be people blaming others, be it Syria, or the Palestinians, or any others. It is of no use. We have to deal with our own business by ourselves. It is no use of blaming others," he said.

Asked about the tribunal, he said that he did not want it to be imposed on. "It is our business, not that of the United Nations" he said.