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The Latest Anti-Immigrant Party On The Rise ... In Lebanon

The Lebanese 'Party of Hope' calls for the immediate expulsion of more than one million Syrian refugees.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Giacomo Tognini

ZOUK MOSBEH — Dozens of supporters turned out recently in this coastal town north of Beirut to inaugurate a new political party, the Lebanese Party of Hope, which advocates the expulsion of an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon.

The Beirut-based daily L'Orient-Le Jourreports that the question of what will happen to the refugees once the Syrian civil war draws to a close is a deeply divisive topic in Lebanese politics. Some parties are pushing for a voluntary repatriation led by the refugees themselves, while others prefer the involvement of security forces.

The Party of Hope is demanding immediate negotiations with the Syrian government to repatriate all of the displaced. "The government must block Syrians from entering and must re-establish control over our borders, revoke the refugee status of Syrian refugees who cross the border and seek more international aid to deal with the situation," party leader Farès Ftouhi told L'Orient-Le Jour.

We aren't against Syrians, we are for them.

Lebanese parties that oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refuse to talk to him, as any negotiation is perceived as legitimizing his regime. The Lebanese government has distanced itself from Assad since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, a choice decried by the Shia Lebanese militia Hezbollah, a staunch ally of Damascus.

The Party of Hope warns that delaying the issue further could lead to a back-door naturalization of Syrian refugees, though that is unconstitutional. Granting Lebanese citizenship to millions of predominantly Sunni Muslim Syrians would upend Lebanon's political landscape, in which religion determines everything from the presidency to the number of seats a party wins in parliament.

"We aren't against Syrians, we are for them," said Ftouhi. "We support their secure and orderly return to Syria."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Russian Orthodox Church Has A Kremlin Spy Network — And Now It's Spreading Abroad

The Russian Orthodox Church has long supported Russia’s ongoing war effort in Ukraine. Now, clergy members in other countries are suspected of collaborating with and recruiting for Russian security forces.

Photo of Russian soldiers during mass at an Orthodox church in Moscow.

Russian soldiers during mass at an Orthodox church in Moscow.

Wiktoria Bielaszyn

WARSAW — Several countries have accused members of the Russian Orthodox clergy of collaborating with Russian security services, pushing Kremlin policy inside the church and even recruiting spies from within.

On Sept. 21, Bulgaria deported Russian Archimandrite Vassian, guardian of the Orthodox parish in Sofia, along with two Belarusian priests. In a press release, the Bulgarian national security agency says that clergy were deported because they posed a threat to national security. "The measures were taken due to their actions against the security and interests of the Republic of Bulgaria," Bulgarian authorities wrote in a statement, according to Radio Svoboda.

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These reports were also confirmed by Russia's ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, who told Russian state news agency TASS that the priests must leave Bulgaria within 24 hours. “After being declared persona non grata, Wassian and the other two clerics were taken home under police supervision to pack up their belongings. Then they will be taken to the border with Serbia" she said.

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