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memri
September 27, 2007 No.
1725

Lebanese Presidential Candidate Gen. (Ret.) Paul Fares Plans to Establish Federal State in Lebanon, With Sectarian Division

The following are excerpts from an interview with Lebanese independent presidential candidate Gen. (ret.) Paul Fares, which aired on ANB TV on September 15, 2007.[1]


To view this clip visit: http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/1560.


"The Countries with a Federal Regime Are the Most Stable and Prosperous"

Gen. Paul Fares: "Once a new election law is passed, and after we promote the idea of a federal state, we will hold [parliamentary] elections, and in light of their outcome – two years later, after stability in Lebanon is restored – we will raise the idea of a federal state. This idea should arise out of the conviction of all Lebanese, not just some of them. It will take time for this conviction to take root. We need to explain it to the people, so they will understand the benefits of this new regime. It is not easy to shift them from one regime to the other..."

Interviewer: "Let's go into the details, so that the viewers get a better idea what a federal state is."

Gen. Fares: "The federal regime... First, people must get it out of their heads that it means partition. The purpose of a federal regime is to prevent partition. If we do not establish a federal state, we will reach partition. A federal state is meant to prevent partition. Is the United States partitioned in any way? It is a federal state. Is Switzerland partitioned in any way? It is a federal state. Is Germany partitioned? It is a federation. The UAE is a federal state. Why is the UAE a federal state, even though they are all Sunnis and they all speak Arabic? There are no Christians, Druze, Shiites, Kurds, Armenians, or Greek Orthodox over there. They are all Sunnis, yet they established a federal state. Why? The most stable country in the Arab world today is the UAE. Not only the UAE – all the countries with a federal regime are the most stable and prosperous countries in the world. That is because they have a federal regime. If we do not establish a federal regime, where are we headed? Either we will continue with the current regime, continue to fight and slaughter one another, or else one of the sides will try to establish a religious state. It will use its majority to take control, and will try to establish a religious state. This will be very difficult, and will also lead to massacres and fighting. Otherwise, we have no choice but to move over to a federal state."

[...]

"Our federal state will be put together on a sectarian basis."

Interviewer: "So there will be a Maronite province, a Sunni province..."

"Today, There Are 24 Districts in Lebanon; We Could Turn Them Into 24 Provinces... Each Province Will Live According To Its Unique Characteristics"

Gen. Paul Fares: "Today, there are 24 districts in Lebanon. We could turn them into 24 provinces – and if you make it 34, all the better, because then the provinces would be 'pure' – Shiite provinces for themselves, Maronite provinces for themselves, Druze provinces for themselves, the Greek Orthodox for themselves, and even the Armenian Orthodox for themselves, if we get to 34 provinces."

[...]

"Each province will live according to its unique characteristics. I gave an example in the press conference I held. Let's assume they want to ban alcohol consumption in the [Sunni] Sidon Province. We, the Christians of the Jezzine province, which borders with Sidon, drink arak. Why should it bother me if the people of Sidon don't want to drink arak? If the traditions and religion of the people of Sidon prevent them from selling and drinking alcohol, why should it bother me? It doesn't bother me. But it would bother me if someone from Sidon were to come to Jezzine, and say to me: 'Don't drink arak!' How is it your business if I drink arak? I do it here, not in Sidon. When I go to your province, I will respect your traditions, and you should respect mine. In the [Shiite] Nabatiya province, the governor might come up with the idea of passing a law that all women must wear the hijab. It's up to him. It's none of my business."

"Our Regime... Forces Us to Fight One Another"

Interviewer: "As long as he was elected..."

Gen. Fares: "But in the Jezzine province, I want all women to wear swim suits, and go out to the streets to get a tan. What does he care? He can come and have a look. Why do I have to force the Muslims to have their day off on Sundays? Let them have their day off on Fridays. The Muslim provinces can have their day off on Fridays, and the Christian provinces on Sundays. The banks there will be open on Sundays, and the banks here on Fridays, and the economy will remain active 365 days a year. What prevents this? Only our regime, which forces us to fight one another."

[...]

"What does 'popular defense' mean? It means that the entire people takes part in the defense. We are a small country with two strong countries on our borders. If we want to fight Israel, we need an army of at least 300,000 soldiers, and planes, tanks, missiles, a budget, and so on. First of all, we do not have that capability. Secondly, we don't have enough people whom we could recruit, and take out of work. That would destroy a weak country like Lebanon. We cannot deal with it this way."

"We Are Imitating Switzerland, But Doing It The Lebanese Way"

"A weak country like us, which is located between two strong neighbors, should rely on popular defense, just like Switzerland did. We are not inventing anything new. We are imitating Switzerland, but doing it the Lebanese way. If Lebanon is attacked... What did the resistance do in the South? All the people pick up their guns. All the men know where they should go and what they should do. Every woman knows what she has to do.

"What we need is to maintain a small army. The mission of this small army, in addition to defending the border, is to absorb the first assault when Lebanon is attacked, so that we can call up the popular defense. The popular defense will come from all over Lebanon, from all the villages and the towns – the entire people will rise up, pick up the weapons, and defend the country. These weapons should not be distributed all over. The weapons should be kept in storehouses protected by the state. The day popular defense is called up, all the storehouses will be opened, and everybody will take their guns, their weapons, their missiles, their cannons, and will know what they have to do and where they have to go."



[1] Gen. (Res.) Paul Fares, a Christian, was born in 1937 in the Jezzine district in Lebanon. He ran for parliament in 2000, calling for the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon. He is now running for president as an independent candidate.