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769former Lebanese leader returns home after 14 years of exile

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  • Greg Cannon
    May 7, 2005

      May. 7, 2005 17:25
      Lebanon Gen. Michel Aoun comes home

      PARIS, France

      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."