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Hariri pays tribute to Lebanese for taking part in ‘democracy’


By Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Beirut, Daily Star:

The participation of the Lebanese people in their democratic system and their respect for the Constitution have preserved the nation’s pioneering role in the Arab world, said Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Friday.

Speaking during the second day’s closing session of the Arab Thought Foundation’s annual conference, Hariri said that the Lebanese people have been through several crises, including Israeli occupation of parts of the country.

“But the people stood up and resisted, forcing the occupiers to withdraw from the greater part of Lebanese territory,” Hariri said, addressing the foundation’s president Prince Khaled al-Faisal, Sidon MP Bahiya Hariri, Tyre MP Ali Kahlil and a number of academics participating in the three day conference, which opened on Thursday.

Hariri argued that the Arabs should be careful about “change and what the United States currently requires from several nations,” and said that Arabs should not let Israel be the only nation that influences American decisions to its own advantage, against the Arab nation.

The prime minister added that several thousand Arab and Muslim youths live in the United States in addition to the thousands of Arab graduates of US universities around the world. Hariri said that the Arab nation should exploit the influence of these educated expatriates.

As to whether the Arab nation would be able to survive the several challenges and pressures that it currently faces, Hariri said that this was not the first time Arabs have faced such threats.

“I tell you that the Arab situation now is not as bad as several Arabs and foreigners put it,” he said. He described the current problems the Arabs faced as a storm in a teacup saying that the key to surviving these difficulties was to hold on “to our principles and ethics.”

“This is not to say that the Arabs are living in total luxury,” he said, adding that as far as he can tell, the Arab situation has improved in the last 30 years.

“In the mid-1960s I went to Saudi Arabia, and I can tell you that the kingdom has come a long way, not only in terms of construction and infrastructure, but in terms of developing human resources, education and media.”

Hariri said that toppling “the Arab system is not in our favor. On the contrary, we should develop the nation in the long term.” However, he accused some Arab regimes of acting against the interests of their citizens and driving their countries to destruction while they squandering their material and human resources.

“Change comes from within. We are a nation that has potential, which is also found in other nations. We only need political will to change,” the prime minister said.

Hariri also talked about the prospects of economic growth in Lebanon and the Arab world, saying that the Arab countries have assets they can capitalize on to rescue their ailing economies.

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