Lebanon – Miqati, Sunni Leaders Reach Common Ground over Higher Islamic Council Dispute

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Prime Minister Najib Miqati announced on Monday that he agreed with former premiers to take several measures to end the dispute over the elections at the Higher Islamic Council, noting that he will inform Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani about them later in the day.

“We took several decisions and I will inform Qabbani about them tonight,” Miqati said following talks with former PMs Fouad Saniora, Omar Karami and Salim al-Hoss at the Grand Serail.

He described the meeting as “very good.”

Miqati pointed out that the unity of the Sunni sect is a priority “and we all agreed on this.”

Sharp rift emerged to the surface after Qabbani called last month for electing new council members in February 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.

On Saturday, deputy of the Grand Mufti Omar Mesqawi said that the Higher Islamic Council is the only body that has the authority to call for the election of its members.

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.

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