Lebanon's Christian rivals shake hands after decades of hostility

Christian Lebanese leaders Suleiman Frangieh and Samir Geagea shake hands accompanied by Patriarch Bechara al-Rai in Bkerki, Lebanon Nov. 14, 2018. (Via Reuters)
Updated 14 November 2018

Lebanon's Christian rivals shake hands after decades of hostility

  • Geagea and Frangieh have been foes since the early days of the 1975-1990 civil war

BEIRUT: Christian rivals from the Lebanese civil war, Samir Geagea and Suleiman Frangieh, shook hands with each other on Wednesday, marking a formal reconciliation to end more than four decades of enmity.
Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF) political party, and Frangieh, head of the Marada party, have been foes since the early days of the 1975-1990 civil war.
The two parties had armed militias during the conflict that battled against each other. The war, which drew in regional powers, included fighting between the country’s main sects and rival factions within those sects.

The men, both Maronite Christians, met to reconcile at the seat of the sect’s Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai in Bkerki, north of Beirut. They shook hands with Rai and then with each other after several failed reconciliation attempts over the years.
Geagea has been accused of leading a raid in 1978 on the home of Frangieh’s father, Tony Franjieh, a rival Maronite Christian chieftain, who was killed with his wife, daughter and others. Geagea has said he was wounded before reaching Frangieh’s house, and did not take part himself.
This is the second rapprochement of recent years between civil war Maronite Christian rivals.
In January 2016 Geagea endorsed then presidential candidate Michel Aoun for the Lebanese presidency, ending his own rival candidacy for the position, which must be held by a Maronite Christian under Lebanon’s sectarian power sharing system.
Geagea and Aoun, who fought each other in the 1975-90 civil war, have been on opposite sides of the political divide since Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2005.
President Aoun is a political ally of the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah, whereas Geagea is a staunch opponent of the group. Frangieh is a close ally of Syrian President and Hezbollah ally Bashar Assad.
Tony Frangieh, Suleiman’s son, said the reconciliation was a good thing for all Lebanese and was not connected to any presidential aims.
“We are looking forward to the future by achieving this reconciliation,” he told Lebanese broadcaster Al-Jadeed at the ceremony.

 


Protesters regain control of third bridge in Baghdad

Updated 17 November 2019

Protesters regain control of third bridge in Baghdad

  • Security forces used tear gas and stun bombs to prevent protesters from getting right across Ahrar Bridge in central Baghdad
  • More than 300 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Iraqi protesters regained control of a third bridge leading to Baghdad’s Green Zone on Sunday, taking further ground in the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in decades.
Security forces used tear gas and stun bombs to prevent protesters from getting right across Ahrar Bridge in central Baghdad, part of a weeks-long attempt to disrupt traffic and reach the Green Zone housing government ministry and embassies.
Protesters made a barricade of old cabinets, trash cans and metal sheeting on the bridge while security forces took positions behind blast walls installed to prevent protesters from crossing to the other side. Protesters who choked on the tear gas were evacuated by tuk-tuk, a Reuters cameraman said.
On Saturday, Iraqi demonstrators reoccupied part of adjacent Sinak Bridge and a nearby tall building in Baghdad that security forces had pushed them away from a week before. They have held a third bridge, Jamhuriya, since October 25.
More than 300 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq in early October, the largest demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests.
In Basra in the south, dozens of protesters burned tires and briefly blocked some roads on Sunday, before police managed to restore control and reopen them, police said.
The unrest has shattered the relative calm that followed the defeat of Islamic State in 2017.