Higher Islamic Council Delegation Tours Sunni Leaders over Elections Dispute

The deputy of Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani said Saturday that the Higher Islamic Council is the only body that has the authority to call for the election of its members.

Following talks with Prime Minister Najib Miqati at the head of a Council delegation, Omar Mesqawi said: “We want effective elections that are capable of giving the Council the ability to control the performance of Dar al-Fatwa, including the Mufti.”

The delegation which visited Miqati at his home in the northern city of Tripoli also met Saturday with former Prime Ministers Salim al-Hoss and Omar Karami.

“It is very dangerous to call for the elections without giving the Higher Islamic Council the ability to monitor them,” Mesqawi said.

Former PM Karami said after the meeting: “It has become a necessity to draw a road-map that would take us out of this state of chaos, rumors and wrongdoings that tarnished the sects’ reputation”.

During the meeting, Miqati called Karami and the two statesmen agreed to convene soon with the participation of all former prime ministers to discuss the Council’s elections.

Qabbani called in December for electing new council members within the next three months after he declared that the three-year term of the Council ended.

The mufti had earlier canceled the elections that he had called for on December 31 to allow Dar al-Fatwa, which is Lebanon’s top Sunni religious authority, to issue a list of eligible voters for the 32-member Council.

His move came after the Shura Council suspended the polls over a challenge filed against Qabbani by 21 Higher Islamic Council members, who are close to ex-Premier Saad Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement.

They described the elections as illegal over Qabbani’s failure to consult them before making his call.

The Council elects the mufti and organizes the affairs of Dar al-Fatwa.

Qabbani’s ties with al-Mustaqbal deteriorated last year when he met with a delegation from Hizbullah the same day the Special Tribunal for Lebanon indicted four party members in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s Feb. 2005 assassination.

Relations between the two sides were also shaken when the mufti met with Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdul Karim Ali, whom al-Mustaqbal and the March 14 opposition alliance have on several occasions said should be expelled.

Mesqawi said following his meeting with Miqati that the prime minister promised the delegation to invite former PMs for talks at the Grand Serail to resolve the dispute over the Council’s elections.



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