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Ironduke
25 Oct 03,, 02:07
Lebanon Seeks Arrest of Exiled Christian

2 hours, 18 minutes ago

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanon issued an arrest warrant Friday for a leading Christian exile, saying Gen. Michel Aoun had not returned from France for questioning on a charge of harming Lebanon's foreign relations.



The chief investigative judge of Beirut, Hatem Madi, issued the warrant after Aoun did not respond to a summons, judicial officials said. The warrant applies only in Lebanon.


The charges stemmed from Aoun's Sept. 17 testimony before a U.S. Congress committee, when he spoke of Syria's "hegemony" over Lebanon, called for the withdrawal of Syria's 20,000 troops in Lebanon and accused Syria of destabilizing Lebanon to justify its presence in the country. Aoun once commanded the Lebanese army.


The Lebanese Embassy in Paris twice tried to serve a summons on Aoun to report to the Beirut prosecutor's office for questioning, the officials said on condition of anonymity. On both occasions, a person at Aoun's home in Paris told the embassy official that Aoun was out of the country.


Aoun criticized the issuing of the warrant, telling Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television Friday that the "judiciary has become a tool of political oppression."


A week after his congressional testimony, Lebanon prosecutors charged Aoun with "harming Lebanon's relations with a brotherly country and spreading false reports that aim to weaken the state's prestige."


On Friday, Aoun defended his comments. "Since when are those who defend their country in international gatherings considered traitors?" Aoun asked rhetorically on the Friday broadcast.


The congressional committee is considering a bill banning U.S. firms from trading or investing in Syria unless it withdraws troops from Lebanon and ceases its alleged support of terror groups and its alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.


The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the bill.


Aoun is a Christian opponent of the government who enjoys support among Lebanese Christians seeking an end to Syria's role as their country's power broker.


But the government and many Muslim leaders maintain the Syrians are required to keep stability in a country still recovering from the 1975-1990 civil war.


Aoun has lived in France since Syrian forces defeated his troops in Lebanon in 1990.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&ncid=1276&e=2&u=/ap/20031024/ap_on_re_mi_ea/lebanon_opposition