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Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AbiAssaf Welcomes Congressional Leaders at National Commemoration of Lebanese Cedar Revolution on Capitol Hill

(WASHINGTON, DC)...The Lebanese Information Center today commemorated the third anniversary of the Lebanese Cedar Revolution with an event in the United States Capitol. Featured keynote speaker at the conference was leading March 14 figure and President of the Lebanese Forces Party, Dr. Samir Geagea who, while in Washington, has held a series of meetings with Members from the U.S. House and Senate, top officials from the Bush administration including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Steven Hadley, President George W. Bush's national security adviser and Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser. Emceeing the proceedings in the Rayburn House Office Building this morning was Michel Abi Assaf, a key representative for the Lebanese Forces in the United States. Abi Assaf is greatly respected and well-known within Congressional circles in Washington, DC and Michigan. From the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, Abi Assaf has been instrumental in advocating the Lebanon to many US Representatives including Congressmen Mike Rogers (R-MI), Thad McCotter (R-MI), Charles Boustany (R-LA), Elliot Engel (D-NY), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), and Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI), among others. Excerpts from his speech follow:
Remarks by Mr. Michel Abi Assaf
National Commemoration of the Cedar Revolution
The United States Capitol, Washington, DC
Thursday, March 13, 2008, 9:30 AM DST
Good Morning. Honorable representatives of the people of the United States, Heads of National and International Organizations, members of the Lebanese American communities throughout the United States and Canada, members and representatives of the media, members of the Lebanese delegation. I wish to welcome all of you present here today to what is truly an historic moment in America amongst our Lebanese Diaspora in the United States.
Today our special guest and current leader of the Lebanese Forces, Dr. Samir Geagea brings with him the Lebanese people’s message of truth. And this is the message he has been delivering to the White House, Congress and throughout Washington, DC. The promise of the Lebanese Spring remains upon us. Our march to freedom, sovereignty, and independence is not only attainable it is unstoppable.
Dr. Geagea’s journey to be with us here today has been a long and arduous one. We know of his endless sacrifices in the name of Lebanon. The world is aware of the atrocities levied against him by the Syrian regime and their agents in Lebanon. All this brought on by the regime that ruled Lebanon during the Syrian hegemony period to oust you from the political scene and dismantle our Lebanese Forces party. Severely restricted, you suffered endlessly, never knowing what tortures the next day would bring.
And yet, in speaking to a delegation from the Lebanese Parliament's Human Rights Committee, visiting you after 10 years in this dungeon, you said, "I would prefer to remain in prison for another 20 years than bargain my beliefs for freedom." And in keeping steadfast with your positions on Lebanon’s freedom, today the majority of Lebanese recognize that the destructive hand of the Syrian Regime has no future in Lebanon.
We, freedom-seeking and peace-loving people, categorically reject their attempts to usurp power through means of hegemony, terrorism, fear and intimidation. There is no place for this in our world today or at anytime in history, and especially in our beloved Lebanon. The Lebanese people are tired. They are tired of words. They are tired of wars. And, they are tired of being pawns of external forces on a global scene in which they never asked nor care to be part of.
Ours is a culture of life, not death. We join our Lebanese compatriots in their desire for a return to peace, prosperity, government reform, education, freedom, mutual respect and quality of life. We have suffered far too long at the hands of those who would interfere with these dreams and who work solely to satisfy their own agendas.
On this day of commemoration let us not forget those who rallied by our side. I would like to take a moment to recognize those individuals with us this morning that have stood not only by Lebanon and the Lebanese people, but with Dr. Geagea as well. Please know that we had a champion of your cause right here in the United States Capitol who worked tirelessly on behalf of Lebanon and continues to do so to this day.
US Rep. Thaddeus McCotter has been a stalwart supporter in defense of Lebanon’s struggle for freedom, sovereignty and independence. And for that I ask you all to join me in thanking him and his staff for their resolve and dedicated commitment to Lebanon’s future.
Weathering the weight of her husband’s incarceration, she bore this daily cross with a determination like none other. With Sitrida Geagea’s political activism having begun while a student at Lebanese University, she is known for being one of a few politicians to bravely and publicly criticize the presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon. And she did so throughout their illegal occupation over Lebanon from 1991 to April 2005, until Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon as a result of international pressure and the Cedar Revolution.
She also became the sole voice of the party during Dr. Geagea's decade-long political imprisonment. She led the LF in his absence as well as widespread calls for his release with other mainly Christian Lebanese parties, notable politicians and clerics, which finally happened on July 26, 2005. And with our insurmountable debt of gratitude to Sitrida, during Hakim’s incarceration, support for him among Lebanese Christians remained high, and by some accounts even increased.
Together, we can realize our dreams for a new Lebanon. Dr. Geagea is leading the charge for this new Lebanon, but he cannot do it alone. Nelson Mandela, upon his release from prison said to his countrymen:
“The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it always has been. No individual leader is able to take on this enormous task on his own. Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive. The sight of freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts. We must not allow fear to stand in our way.”
As we gather this morning to commemorate the third anniversary of the Cedar Revolution, let us heed these words of Mr. Mandela and join our own hero in the fight for our homeland’s liberty. We stand with you, Hakim, as you continue to put your own personal safety at risk and sacrifice your personal freedom so that Lebanon can one day be truly free.

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">