Lebanon leaders call for unity following political, sectarian tensions

Lebanon leaders call for unity following political, sectarian tensions
Officials from Lebanon's two main Shia parties visited a Christian village Friday, in a bid to end political tensions many feared could spiral into sectarian division.
2 min read
02 February, 2018
Amal supporters are furious about Bassil's remark [AFP]

Officials from Lebanon's two leading Shia parties - Amal and Hizballah - visited a Christian suburb of Beirut Friday, to help calm tensions between the two religious communities.

Parties from both sides met in the Hadat neighbourhood and called for national unity, after political tensions threatened to spill into sectarian division.

It follows a leaked video that shows Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil - from the mostly Christian Free Patriotic Movement - calling Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of the Shia Amal Movement "a thug".

Amal supporters staged protests this week and called on Bassil to apologise for the remark.

Troops were deployed to Hadat after riots broke out in areas of Lebanon populated by Amal supporters.

Among the delegates attending Friday's meeting was the head of Hadat municipality George Aoun, Amal MP Ali Bazzi and Hizballah lawmaker Ali Ammar who called for calm and unity.

"Our meeting today is a message countering all that happened in recent days," said Alain Aoun, an FPM MP, according to Reuters

"It is also a message to (Berri) that his dignity and ours are one."

The tensions threatened the fragile political agreement between Lebanon's sects. Berri has previously accused President Michel Aoun - also of the Free Patriotic Movement - of exceeding his powers.

Lebanon's political system balances power between the various religious communities in the country. A civil war in the 1970s and 1980s saw Lebanon divided along sectarian lines. 

Shia Berri and Christian Aoun were on opposite sides in the war. Hizballah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement have now formed a political alliance against the Lebanon's anti-Syrian regime axis. 

Aoun - who is Bassil's father-in-law - spoke with Berri Thursday in a bid to dampen tensions, while the Free Patriotic Movement insisted the foreign minister regretted the comment.