May. 7, 2005 17:25
Lebanon Gen. Michel Aoun comes home
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lebanese Gen. Michel Aoun, Lebanon's most prominent
anti-Syrian politician, returned to his homeland
Saturday after 14 years of exile in France.
Aoun boarded a special Middle East Airlines flight
along with about 100 members of his political
entourage who accompanied him to Lebanon.
Aoun decided to return home after Syrian troops
completed their pullout following 29 years of
"It's a big emotion, you know, to meet with the
Lebanese people after this long time and this long
struggle for independence and the sovereignty of our
country," Aoun told Associated Press Television News
as he left his Paris home.
Aoun's return is being heralded by supporters - mostly
Christians - and opponents alike who see his comeback
as Lebanon's latest step on the road toward democratic
Aoun told Radio France Internationale that he is
returning home to join a reform movement - possibly
including Hizbullah - and isn't ruling out a run for
"Let's say I'm not a candidate, but if I'm chosen, I
will accept my responsibilities," Aoun said.
Lebanon has scheduled crucial parliamentary elections
starting May 29, and Aoun said it was up to the new
legislature to decide when presidential elections
might be planned.
Referring to the possibility of political cooperation
with the Hizbullah, Aoun said:
"These are honest, straightforward people, and they
are not particularly affected by corruption and can
easily abide by a reform plan," he said.
As for relations with Israel, Aoun said the two
countries had more to focus on than each other for
"Israel is preoccupied with talks with Palestinians,
then with the Syrians," he said. "We are preoccupied
with the consolidation of our country, with the
changes after the departure of the Syrians."
"So what matters to us first is the stability of the
borders," Aoun said. "We will talk about peace with
Israel after dealing with other problems."