Top Lebanese church official slams Hezbollah for sidelining the state

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Hezbollah sidelines the Lebanese state and “declares war and peace where it chooses,” the leader of the Maronite church said in an interview Thursday, in the latest of a string of tirades against the Iran-backed group.

“It [Hezbollah] helped precipitate war in Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai told Vatican News.

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Rai, who has criticized Hezbollah and its allies on multiple occasions in recent weeks, said there was a “sort of control” from Hezbollah on the Lebanese government and the country’s policies as a result of its participation in regional wars.

He blamed Hezbollah’s actions and rampant corruption in the country for the unprecedented socioeconomic crisis that Lebanon is currently experiencing.

Rai called for Lebanon to adopt and commit to a neutrality policy, without having enemies in the “East or the West.”

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“Today, for the sake of Lebanon and all Lebanese without any exceptions, there is no solution other than neutrality,” he added.

Adopting a neutrality policy, Rai said, would take Lebanon out from under the control of “any of Lebanese side.”

The United States, European Union, and other Gulf states would not help Lebanon because they refused to offer any form of aid to a government they considered controlled by Hezbollah.

Days after he criticized Hezbollah and its allies for isolating Lebanon from its “brothers and friends,” Rai told President Michel Aoun on Wednesday that all Lebanese sides should pledge allegiance to Lebanon.

During two consecutive church sermons last week and the week before, Rai indirectly spoke out against Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement, calling for Lebanon to implement a policy of dissociation and neutrality.

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