The following interview with Lebanon's ambassador to Canada, Mr. Raymond Baaklini, was published in "SADA AL MASHRIQ" Arabic newspaper on 31/12/02:
Lebanon's ambassador to
Ottawa, Raymond Baaklini:
We want Canada to revoke its decision against Lebanon.
The efforts of some Lebanese have aimed to put all of Lebanon, and not only Hizbollah, on the terrorism list.
Ottawa-from Mohammed Jouma
After the unfair decision recently taken by the Canadian government under pressure from the US government, the Zionist Lobby and the Alliance Party, in cooperation with a Lebanese party working closely with the Zionist Lobby to attack Lebanon's dignity, independence and resistance, it was necessary to meet with His Excellency, the Ambassador of Lebanon to Canada, Mr. Raymond Baaklini. The Ambassador is working hard these days to deal with the aftermath of this decision and try to contain it. We sought his opinion on the background of the decision and the role of the community in confronting it.
His Excellency Ambassador Raymond Baaklini was born in 1943 in Bzebdeen, in the district of Baabda. He has been with Lebanon's foreign diplomatic corps since 1972, holding several posts and heading six Lebanese diplomatic delegations, successively to Gabon, Stockholm, Libya, South Korea, France, and presently to Canada.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, in your opinion why has the Canadian government taken the decision to put Hizbollah on the terrorism list?
Answer: After two and a half years of observing developments in Canada, especially after the events of September 11, it appears that Canada was somewhat forced to align itself with the American position. Indirectly, and due to its important economic relations with the US, it had to work closely with America especially in security matters. And so I believe that American pressure was one of the most important reasons for taking such a decision. We know that America is the only country that places Hizbollah on its list of terrorist organizations. The most determined party that has benefited from this matter is the Zionist party in Canada which, as you know, controls 90% of Canadian media. It takes its instructions and support from many Zionist organizations located either in Canada or abroad. As such, the Zionist movement has actually the leading role, followed by the US in second, behind this matter.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, what efforts are being exerted by Lebanon's Foreign Ministry and the Lebanese Embassy in Canada to contain and kill this decision? In your opinion, will the recent request by the Lebanese government to remove Hizbollah from the terrorism list be successful?
Answer: We were surprised by the decision, and so were the members of the Canadian House and Senate. That is to say, the decision came as a surprise to everybody, and we were unable to take the necessary steps. However, we have initiated actions with two objectives in mind:
1- The decision should not be blindly applied to every bearded Lebanese with accusations of membership in Hizbollah, considering that there is no organization in Canada under the name of Hizbollah. Of course, there are Islamic and Christian organizations, and these are licensed to operate.
2- I received direct and clear instructions from the Lebanese government, and I made all the necessary contacts in this regard. It is obviously imperative that we immediately try to contain this decision if we cannot cancel it, because the present circumstances may be conducive to have it revoked, as they may equally permit the Zionist organizations to hold on to it. Therefore a great deal of effort is required for this matter.
Question: In your opinion, will this decision have an impact on the Lebanese-Canadian community and the Islamic organizations that provide assistance to the needy in Lebanon?
Answer: Quite frankly this is actually what I fear, and in fact this was the central issue in my initial discussions with the Canadian Foreign Ministry. As you know, the US gave the green light to its security apparatus and gave them a license to go after the innocent. So when a police officer detains an individual, suspect or non-suspect, there is no possibility of recourse to a judge to look into the matter. This has now become the situation in Canada as well, and this is what I brought up with Canadian officials as I said in the beginning of this conversation. As an ambassador, I can't accept that the opponent is also the referee, and that the police have the final decision (on the matter). What I really feared was voiced by many Lebanese groups who visited the Embassy. The Canadian police always seem to suspect every man with a beard and every woman with a veil. We categorically reject that and urge the community's organizations and lawyers to confront it.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, do you see that the Lebanese-Canadian community, with the cooperation of the other Arab and Islamic communities, will be able to do something to stand up to this decision and work on having it re-considered or contained?
Answer: If the community were well organized, it would have been able to stop the decision, even if it was alone and without the help of the other communities. However, given the present state of organization, all it can do is send a few letters to newspapers and some MPs. I certainly hope that our community would unite and work for its interests.
Question: We heard that there is a Lebanese party that has supported and participated in the adopting and shaping of this decision. Who are these people and what is Lebanon's official position concerning them?
Answer: For a while now, I have been receiving news and information about individuals affiliated with Christian rightist movements who work to put all of Lebanon, and not only Hizbollah, on the terrorism list. I have personally investigated this matter and found that these individuals are not effective, and members of these movements represent no one but themselves in this community.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, have you approached the other Arab or Islamic diplomaticdelegations in a bid to cooperate on common action and confront this decision?
Answer: Quite frankly, I am still hesitant. The Arab Ambassadors Council was supposed to meet last Tuesday, but the meeting was postponed till January because of the holidays. The reason for the hesitation is that Arab ambassadors and envoys of Islamic countries follow the policies of their countries. Due to the fact that these policies are not clear, we cannot take common action, although some of the ambassadors have expressed to me their personal opinions, and they sympathize with Hizbollah and consider it a resistance and not a terrorist movement.
Question: It is known that Canada was active in peacekeeping and conflict-resolution situations, and did not directly interfere in difficult cases. Do you see that this decision will affect Canada's reputation in the Middle East and the Arab and Islamic worlds?
Answer: Yes, this is what I said to my Canadian friends at all levels, citing as an example my own experience in South Korea. I noticed that most foreign young people there wore T-shirts with Canada's name on them. I asked one of them where he was from and from which Canadian city. He replied that he was American and not Canadian. I then asked him why did he have Canada's name on his T-shirt and his reply was so that people accept me and merchants deal with me, because they expel Americans from their streets. And this is how Canada is seen in the Arab world, a symbol of civilization, mutual understanding, and exchange. A meeting ground for culture, education, and politics in the Arab world. Canada's name was a symbol, and I am afraid that Canadians in Lebanon and the Arab world would have to start wearing T-shirts with other countries' names on them.
Question: In your opinion, is the Canadian decision going to encourage some European countries to make the same decision?
Answer: We should here go back to the reasons I mentioned as being behind the decision, and these are American and Zionist pressures. I don't think Europe will be affected by this decision because Europe is closer to the region and deeply understands its interests with the Arab region and with all individuals and organizations in Arab society. That's why there is really no choice for Europe, especially that Europe has important interests there. European and Arab intellectuals always deal with each other on the basis of logic.
Questions: Finally, Your Excellency, do you have any additional comments for the community?
Answer: I wish for the community not to be seized by fear because it is innocent of any wrong. I emphasize that I have reached an agreement with the Canadian authorities that they will inform the community of any violation against any Lebanese, should he be accused of membership in Hizbollah. We have created a network of contacts and communications with the Canadian authorities, and I urge the community to stay in touch with the embassy without any fear. We continue to improve the mechanisms for reporting any violation or infringement by the Canadian police. We are following these matters very closely and I hope that the community's lawyers and all its institutions work with us to alleviate the suffering that any Lebanese might be exposed to. I ask everyone to unite and work together for the welfare of the Lebanese community.
Your Excellency, Mr.Ambassador, thank you. We hope to see our community strong and united for the interests of Lebanon and its peoples everywhere.
For those wishing to contact the Embassy, please call its telephone number at 613-236-5825
N.B: The above text is an unofficial
translation only, done by the LCCC media Committee staff to the best of their
understanding of the interview content. To read the original Arabic text,
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