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Lebanon Laments Pope Who Wrote Christian-Muslim Coexistence Constitution

                                        (Naharnet/April 04, 2005)

Church bells tolled at sad intervals across Lebanon Sunday, mourning the departure of Pope John Paul II, the Roman Catholic pontiff who was particularly fond of this once civil war-torn country that had for centuries made up the strongest Christian bastion in the predominantly Muslim Middle East.

President Lahoud said Sunday that Lebanon had lost "a great friend" with the death of Pope John Paul II.


"Lebanon which is going through a moment of great sadness shares the deep pain of the church and the world" over the pope's death, Lahoud said in a statement.


Premier-designate Omar Karami declared a 3-day official mourning for the fallen pope as the Beirut media paid bottom-of-the-heart tribute to the first-ever Polish head of the Catholic Church who visited Lebanon in 1997 and issued the historical apostolic message that had become the constitution of Christian-Muslim coexistence in the Orient.


John Paul II, who died in the Vatican at age 84 on Saturday, is also remembered for the pilgrimage he made to Bethlehem on the advent of Christianity's third millennium, where he met with the last Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and manifested special sympathy to the Palestinian cause.


The fallen Pope is remembered, too, for the visit he made to Syria after the Holy Land journey, where he went down in history as the first spiritual leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics to ever walk barefooted into the ancient Omayyad Mosque.


There were reports in Beirut that Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head of the Maronite Church who is seven days older than John Paul II, would as president pro tempore head the conclave of the 117 Catholic cardinals from around the world to elect the new pope.


But An Nahar said Sunday Sfeir was not the eldest among the Catholic cardinals to be eligible for the chairmanship of the election conclave in the Vatican late in the week because he is 11 years younger than Dutch Cardinal Wille Brands, 95, who will chair the election process.


Patriarch Sfeir, however, is certain to be on hand in the Vatican for the pope's funeral and the subsequent rituals.


Syria Sets April 30 as Deadline for Complete Evacuation of Lebanon

                                       (Naharnet/April 04, 2005)

Syria will complete the withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon by April 30 in accordance with a seven-month-old Security Council resolution, U.N. special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said Sunday (April 03, 2005).

"Foreign Minister (Farouk) Al Sharaa ... informed me that all Syrian troops, military assets and the intelligence apparatus will have withdrawn fully and completely latest by April 30," the envoy told a Damascus news conference.


"The government of Syria has agreed with me that, subject to acceptance by the Lebanese authorities, a verification team will be dispatched in order to verify the full Syrian withdrawal," he added.

Roed-Larsen said that completion of the withdrawal would be "consistent with Security Council Resolution 1559."


Sharaa, who also attended the news conference, echoed the last comment. "By completely withdrawing (from Lebanon), Syria will have applied the part of Resolution 1559 that concerns it," he said.


Resolution 1559, passed last September, calls for all foreign troops to leave Lebanon and for the country's government to establish its sovereignty over the whole country, including the formerly Israeli-occupied south and Palestinian refugee camps.


"Relations between Syrian and Lebanon are built on national and ethnic bases which cannot be cancelled by the withdrawal of Syrian forces," Sharaa said.


Roed-Larsen, who arrived in Damascus late Saturday, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday morning.(AFP)