Top Maronite Seen Blaming Shi’ites for Lebanon Impasse
In a Sunday sermon, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, asked parishioners: “In what capacity does a sect demand a certain ministry as if it is its own, and obstruct the formation of the government, until it achieves its goals, and so causes political paralysis?” Without mentioning names, he was seen as taking a swipe at the country’s Shi’ites, who are demanding continued control of the Finance Ministry. The largest Lebanese Shi’ite party, Hizbullah, is being accused by anti-government protesters of siphoning off government funds to finance its presence in Syria, where, together with its patron Iran, it has been supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his almost decade-long civil war. Hizbullah – the only Lebanese group outside the military allowed to arm itself – is also accused of massing tens of thousands of rockets in the South for use against Israel. Hizbullah also sees control over the finance ministry as one way of blocking foreign demands that Lebanon enact far-reaching reforms to solve a staggering debt and reset its collapsing economy if other countries are to come to its aid.