20-July-2006 -- Catholic News Agency |

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LEBANESE CATHOLIC PATRIARCH MEETS WITH SEC. RICE, ASSURED OF INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE

Washington DC, Jul. 20, 2006 (CNA ) - United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the international community must help Lebanon apply United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which affirms its call for the strict respect of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout the country.

“I'm very concerned about the people of Lebanon, about Lebanon's freedom and democracy and a Lebanon where all Lebanese can prosper,” Rice told Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir yesterday. The Maronite patriarch was in Washington, wrapping up his one-month visit to the U.S.

“And we are, of course, working very hard to make certain that Lebanon retains its sovereignty,” Rice continued. “We're working very hard to try and minimize the impact of the current conflict on the Lebanese people. And I want you to know that we're not only working hard, but we're also praying for the people of Lebanon.”

Patriarch Sfeir told Rice that Lebanon would be too weak to apply SCR 1559 on its own. “Our interest is that all the citizens will be equal,” he told Rice. “When some are having arms and the others have not, there is no equality.”

Rice heads to New York today to meet with UN chief Kofi Annan. Rice and Annan are expected to have a joint briefing on the Middle East situation from the UN team that has been in the region.

According to Reuters, Rice said Tuesday that the U.S. believes there should be a ceasefire as soon as possible, but only "when conditions are conducive.”

"When it is appropriate and when it is necessary and will be helpful to the situation I am more than pleased to go to the region," said Rice.

Earlier Wednesday, Cardinal Sfeir led a special Mass for peace in his homeland at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church in Washington. More than 200 Lebanese Catholics attended the noontime mass.

"Are there no more peacemakers? I ask: Is war inevitable?" he said in his homily. "As Christians, we believe that war is not inevitable; people choose war, and people can choose peace. …Blessed are the peacemakers."

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and his predecessor, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who retired this summer, also attended the mass.

In a telephone interview with the Washington Post before his meeting with Rice, the cardinal said the U.S. has the ability to "restrain Israel” and he intended to tell Rice that the U.S. should press Israel to stop the attacks.

He said he was surprised that the conflict had developed so rapidly and with such violence. However, he expects the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah will not end until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved, with both peoples established in their own states.

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