Maronite patriarch invited to Saudi Arabia

Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi
Updated 03 November 2017
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Maronite patriarch invited to Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT: Waleed Bukhari, the Saudi chargé d’affaires in Lebanon, said he handed Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi an invitation on Wednesday to visit Saudi Arabia and meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“It will be one of the most important official visits to the Kingdom. It will be historical,” Bukhari said, adding that it will take place in the next few weeks.
Lebanese daily An-Nahar wrote: “The timing and content of the invitation were surprising, as it will be the first visit by a Maronite patriarch to Saudi Arabia, a country that has no Christian churches and parishes.”
Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, who returned from the Kingdom on Wednesday, said during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday: “Saudi Arabia is very keen on Lebanon’s stability.”
Lebanese MP Boutros Harb, who is close to Al-Rahi, welcomed the invitation. “It’s an attempt to strengthen Lebanese-Saudi relations and Christian-Saudi relations,” Harb told Arab News.
“It shows that Saudi Arabia ignores all sectarian differences and wants to establish new ties between King Salman and the Maronite patriarchate.”
The mufti of Tripoli and northern Lebanon, Sheikh Malik Al-Shaar, also hailed the invitation. “Saudi Arabia is the first Arab country to embrace all Arab countries,” he told Arab News.
“The Kingdom is taking care of Lebanon with all its religions and communities, as well as the Lebanese cause and internal civil peace. It supports every step that comes within the framework of uniting Lebanese communities and groups.”
The invitation “confirms that Saudi Arabia has opened its arms to all parties, communities and active actors in Lebanon,” Al-Shaar said.
“It’s now time to meet and discuss everything related to Lebanon in order to preserve the Christian presence in the East.”
Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said: “The visit has been in preparation for the past four or five months.”
Ali bin Saeed Al-Awwad Asiri, Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, who is close to Al-Rahi, reportedly played a major role in arranging the visit. Sources said the invitation reflects greater openness in the Kingdom.
During the visit, Al-Rahi will convey a vision of “a united Lebanon with both its Christian and Muslim populations,” the NNA said.


US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

Updated 20 October 2018
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US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

BEIRUT: An offensive by US-backed forces against Daesh’s last redoubt in eastern Syria killed 35 militants on Saturday, a Britain-based war monitor said.
Twenty-eight Daesh members were killed in air strikes by the US-led coalition around the town of Hajjin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Another seven militants were killed in ground fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who launched a coalition-backed offensive against the Daesh-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley last month.
Fighting has killed 414 militants and 227 SDF fighters in total since the assault began on September 10, the Observatory said.
Coalition air strikes on Daesh targets in another part of the pocket on Thursday and Friday killed at least 41 civilians, 10 of them children, the monitor said.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” across the land it controlled.
But the militant group has since lost most of its territory to various offensives in both countries.
In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the Hajjin pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.