Lebanon News

Syrian ambassador urges legal action against Jarrah

BEIRUT: Syria’s Ambassador Ali Abdel-Karim Ali urged Lebanon Thursday to take legal action after Damascus accused a lawmaker from caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s parliamentary Future bloc of arming and funding anti-regime protesters in Syria.

Ali’s comments came a day after Syrian state-run television aired what it called “confessions” by a three-member terror cell, saying they had received funds and weapons from Western Bekaa MP Jamal Jarrah, a Future official, to fuel a wave of public protests against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Both the Future Movement and Jarrah have categorically denied the allegations.

In an interview with Hezbollah’s Intiqad website, Ali said the confessions by the “terrorist group” required that Lebanon’s authorities and judiciary take action “to preserve the distinctive relations between the two countries.”

He said there was no need for Syrian authorities to contact the Lebanese judiciary because the confessions aired on television were sufficient for Lebanese authorities to automatically take action.

“The Syrian ambassador confirmed that interference and involvement by some Lebanese parties in the events in Syria and the confessions aired on television are very dangerous and ran contrary to the Taif Accord and the distinctive relations between Lebanon and Syria,” according to Intiqad’s transcript.

Ali said that agreements and treaties signed by the two countries dictated that the Lebanese judiciary take action “to protect the two countries’ security and avoid another chain [of attempts] to tamper with security and stability in both countries.”

However, Ali stopped short of openly accusing Jarrah of inciting dissent in Syria, AFP reported.

Anas Kanj, who presented himself as the head of an “armed terrorist group,” said on Syrian television Wednesday that he received money and arms from Jarrah through an intermediary, Ahmad Oudeh.

Oudeh also appeared in a pre-recorded segment, identifying himself as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Syria.

Ali said the confessions aired on Syrian television were only the beginning.

“Something happened. Interference in Syrian affairs was clear in Lebanon and was published by media outlets and [aired by] local television,” he said.

Jarrah has denied the allegations. “We have neither the desire nor the capacity or means to interfere in Syrian affairs. I neither know Ahmad Oudeh nor have any ties to him,” he said Wednesday. The Future bloc issued a statement Wednesday that stressed it had no connection with the events in Syria, adding that none of its MPs directly or indirectly interfered in Syrian affairs.

Syria’s state-run Baath newspaper said the video broadcast was the first in a series of confessions related to the unrest in Syria.

Protests erupted in Syria on March 15 calling for an end to a decades-old state of emergency and demanding sweeping political reforms.

Activists and human rights groups estimate more than 100 people have been killed and scores wounded in the demonstrations across the country.

Meanwhile, hundreds of trucks have been held up at a border crossing between Lebanon and Syria amid heightened security measures enforced as Syrian authorities faced unprecedented protests.

“Between 400 and 500 trucks, most with Syrian or Jordanian license plates, have been held at the Abboudieh border crossing for hours for inspection by Syrian security forces,” a Lebanese security source told AFP. “The inspection of each truck is taking about one hour,” he added. “The measures have been in place for three days.”

Also Thursday, Lebanon’s police chief denied a report that border police had found weapons which were bound for Syria. Earlier, security sources told Reuters border police had late Wednesday detained two men, a Lebanese and a Syrian, who were trying to drive cars filled with weapons into Syria.

“I deny that the Internal Security Forces have seized any weapons smuggled from Lebanon into Syria. Or that it came to its knowledge that any other security apparatus has found weapons smuggled from Lebanon into Syria,” ISF chief Major General Ashraf Rifi told Reuters.

But a security source told The Daily Star Thursday that two Lebanese had been detained Wednesday night in Al-Qasr near Hermel on suspicion of attempting to deliver a shipment of light weapons and automatic rifles to Syrian nationals on the other side of the border.

The source said that an undetermined number of Syrians, who were apparently waiting for the shipment, had been arrested on the other side of the border by Syrian authorities. The source added that based on investigations thus far, the incident could have been arms merchants, and not a politically motivated act.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 15, 2011, on page 1.




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