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Correspondence With World Leaders
All the material here is for public release

The two documents below show great courage on the part of the initiators and the signers. The National Catholic Council of Bishops has taken a firm stand on the liberation of Lebanon. This letter is most important in that it reiterates the position of the Bishops and the official Catholic Church in the United States and puts it fully on record behind a free and sovereign Lebanon, free of the influence of any outsider. It also focuses strong attention on the issue of the Palestinian refugees as well as the security of the South of Lebanon. This especially calls for calm, coexistence and peace among all the people of the south.

March 24, 2000

The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you prepare to meet with President Hafez al-Assad on Sunday, I want to raise with you our concern about the place of Lebanon in the peace process.

The news of a possible breakthrough in the long-stalled negotiations between Israel and Syria is most encouraging. Your efforts to assist in resolving outstanding issues are to be applauded and have our full support. As attention is rightly focused on prospects for peace between Israel and Syria and Israel and the Palestinians, we are concerned lest the needs of Lebanon and its people not receive the attention they deserve in the process.

Lebanon, as Pope John Paul II has said, ought to be "a model" for people of different faiths living together in peace. Instead, it has been torn apart over the past two decades, often at the hands of its neighbors. Exacerbating the situation is the depoloable plight of Palestinian refugees, whose plight, like that of Palestinian refugees throughout the region, cries out for attention. Clearly, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in camps without legal status in Lebanon must be addressed. Any meaningful peace for the region must bring an end to a situation in which so many refugees are endangered by an impoverished future.

The Israeli commitment to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon should and must lead to a resolution of the fighting in southern Lebanon, disarmament of the Hesbollah, and a withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. As the First Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East declared at the conclusion of their meeting last May, "The liveration of (Lebanese ) soil is needed to allow Lebanon to regain her liberty and her independence.

Thanking you for your attention to this matter and assuring you of my prayers for the success of your efforts on behalf of peace, I am,

Sincerely yours,


Most Reverend Joseph A.Forenza

Bishop of Galveston-Houston

President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops

United States Catholic Conference


"The International Maronite Foundation congratulates the Bishops of the United States for its strong stand on behalf of all the people of Lebanon and urges all religious organizations to take up the cause of freedom for Lebanon as a nation where all peoples can live together. This is not an issue of Christian or Moslem, but a cause of humanity in its struggle to exist in harmony with the rest of humanity, free of dominance and undue influence by its neighbors. We urge all parties in Lebanon to take up the cause of freedom and to act in concert with those seeking freedom and sovereignty for Lebanon. Lebanon must assume responsibility for its own destiny and take its future into its own hands. The Lebanese people have suffered throughout their history, and most severely in the most recent past. Further, the Foundation has urged the President to remember that the situation in the south of Lebanon must be addressed quickly and decisively, to ensure justice and tranquility to the region after the Israeli withdrawal. The immediate assumption of control by official forces to prevent massacres and bloodbaths must be one of the highest priorities. The effective control of the area must be undertaken to protect all. The disarming of all factions and resort to the rule of law is critical as the Israeli withdraw and Lebanon assumes mastery of its destiny in the south."

The letter from Congress to Clinton is also very forthright. Signed by congressmen Engel and Gilman and Honorary Chairman of the International Maronite Foundation, Congressman Ray Lahoud, it calls for the United States to protect the cause of Lebanese freedom and Lebanon's right to determine its own future. In order to do that, Lebanon must be freed from its effective political servitude.


March 24, 2000

The President

The White House

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you prepare to meet with Syrian President Havez Assad later this week in Geneva, we urge you to speak with him forthrightly about the need for Syria to fulfill the requirements of the Taif Accord. Syria is bound by this agreement to redeploy and ultimately withdraw its 30,000 troops throughout Lebanon, and must be held to that standard.

We support your efforts to facilitate negotiations between Israel and Syria, but wish to again underscore the critical requirements that Congress be thoroughly consulted about any U.S. commitments to the parties.

UN Security Council Resolution 520 calls for the "strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon". With Israel expected to leave Lebanon by July, attention should now turn to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, which stifles Lebanese political culture and which prevents its society from flourishing.

Lebanon deserves its freedom and the right to determine its own future. This will only happen if all foreign forces leave Lebanon. We therefore strongly urge you to impress upon President Assad the need to redeploy and withdraw Syrian armed forces and security personnel out of Lebanon pursuant tot he Taif Accord.


Eliot L Engel Benjamin A. Gilman Steve Horn Ray LaHood

Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress

and nine other members of Congress.


"The Foundation applauds the members of Congress who took this strong position with the President, urging him to remember the Lebanese in their suffering. The Congressmen have called on the President to turn to freeing Lebanon from its "friends" now that the Israeli issue is being resolved. The Foundation echoes the Congerssmen's call and urges the President to ensure that future negotiations bring a settlement that completes the UN resolutions 425, 425 and 520 and implements the Taif Accord."



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