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By Father Justo Lacunza Balda

ROME, JULY 17, 2006 (Zenit) - The rector of the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies describes the situation in the Middle East as "very worrying."

Worrying, "because now several fronts have been opened"; to that of Gaza and Israel is added that of Lebanon and the Jewish State, he said.

Today, Benedict XVI condemned the crisis between Israel and Lebanon: "At the origin of these cruel oppositions there are, sadly, objective situations of violation of law and justice."

"But neither terrorist acts nor reprisals, especially when they entail tragic consequences for the civilian population, can be justified," the Holy Father said.

An analysis

"This is a scenario in which not only is progress in the whole peace effort endangered, but also that of civil coexistence," Father Lacunza said on Vatican Radio.

"For me it was virtually a given that in a situation of grave crisis in the Middle East, Hezbollah's provocations would lead to an alliance between the radical Palestinian group and Hezbollah, an alliance marked, moreover, by a clear link with the Islamic Republic of Iran," he noted.

Father Lacunza, considered one of the major Catholic experts on Islam in the world, added that "the sovereignty of the state of Lebanon however has not allowed the Lebanese government -- whose parliament is made up of 125 deputies, 36 of whom are members of Hezbollah -- to neutralize the Shiite formation. The Hezbollah have not been prevented from constructing an independent state within Lebanon."

"This is worrying. On one hand, it is about the right to existence on the part of the State of Israel, and also on the part of Palestinians: to strike Israel means indirectly to strike Palestinians and the whole of the Middle East. And it is what we must understand," he said.

"Recognition of the State of Israel means to recognize the rights of Palestinians, not the contrary; it means to recognize the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon," of Jordan and of Syria. "I think we should contemplate the situation starting from these premises," he said.

In regard to the eventual Iranian responsibility in the present crisis, Father Lacunza recalled that "the Hezbollah movement was born about a year after the formal birth of the Islamic Republic. Without Iran, the Hezbollah would not have obtained three important areas: a constitutional political ambit in Lebanon; an Islamic religious area in the framework of Lebanon and the Middle East, and the role of international interlocutor."

International community

Father Lacunza added that he was "perplexed" by "the indifference and in many cases the apathy of the international community."

"Great declarations are made," "but to take concrete steps it is necessary to know what the real motivations are" "of all that occurs in the Middle East," he said.

"There is another question that worries me very much": that "now we have at least three great areas of war," Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

"I hope communities -- independent nations, will work with all their strength to resolve the Middle East issues," he concluded. "And we must speak uninterruptedly of the Middle East, because "our future depends on peace on this earth."

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Keywords

Middle East, Conflict, War, Islam, Arab, Israel, Balda, Lebanon

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