Lebanon News

Jumblatt says resolving Hezbollah's arms alleviates sectarian tension

Jumblatt's relations with Saudi Arabia have cooled since Najib Mikati was appointed prime minister.(The Daily Star/ Hasan Shaaban).

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman’s defense strategy, which would incorporate Hezbollah’s arms, can resolve sectarian conflicts, MP Walid Jumblatt said Monday.

“Returning to National Dialogue and affirming the articles mentioned the president’s defense plan is capable of pulling the country out of the sectarian dispute,” Jumblatt said in his weekly statement.

“And the defense plan is capable of re-directing the route of arms against Israel and in defense of Lebanon, only Lebanon, and under the command of the Lebanese state,” he added.

During a National Dialogue session last year Sleiman proposed a national defense strategy under which Hezbollah would keep its arms but put them under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would have exclusive authority to use force.

Jumblatt, the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, said implementing such a strategy would preserve the city of Sidon where tensions between Hezbollah and a Salafist preacher have escalated, adding that the state’s authority should also be restored.

“All that would preserve the city of Sidon and prevent it slipping into strife, which cannot be achieved via blocking roads and closing down the city but with the return of the state's prestige and via handing over those accused of killing the bodyguards of the city's residents to the judiciary,” he said.

Late last year two of Sheikh Ahmad Assir's bodyguards were killed along with an Egyptian bystander during clashes with Hezbollah in the Taamir neighborhood of Sidon over a dispute regarding Hezbollah’s banners in the coastal city of Sidon. The fighting also left five other people wounded, among them a Hezbollah commander.

Jumblatt also spoke about the development of resistance in Lebanon which he said should not be exclusively attributed to one party, referring to Hezbollah.

“The history of the city of Sidon cannot be erased from memory especially as a city that struggled and resisted along with the Palestinian popular committees against the Israeli occupation, which was a natural extension of the resistance from the Mountain to Beirut, southern suburbs to the south,” Jumblatt said.

“The resistance cannot be eliminated or confiscated [by one party] and it remains the outcome of an accumulated path of resistance that began with the National Lebanese Movement and a group of parties and was continued with heroic steps by the Islamic Resistance [Hezbollah],” he added.

Jumblatt, whose statement is due to be published Tuesday in Al-Anbaa newspaper, also spoke about the situation in Arsal where gunmen killed two soldiers in an ambush last month.

“Just like Arsal, also in Sidon. It too has a history of struggle and resistance and some, it seems, want to tarnish its historical role,” he said, asking the eastern town’s residents to hand over the perpetrators.

“The Syrian regime's attempt to distort the image of this proud town will not succeed,” he added.





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