BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Monday the “uprising of freedom” in Syria would result in the toppling of President Bashar Assad and dismissed tying his return to Lebanon with developments in the neighboring Arab country.
Hariri, in an interview from Paris, also said nothing could stop the course of the court probing the assassination of his father, statesman Rafik Hariri, and said those involved in the 2005 attack would be punished.
“The regime will be changed … and the Syrian people have struggled for that and have been killed for that cause,” Hariri told Future TV, adding that a new regime in Damascus would provide “a real chance for Lebanon to reconcile with the Syrian people.”
“The conflict in Syria is about freedom from this regime,” Hariri said, adding that the bloodshed in the neighboring country had surpassed that of other Arab states hit by popular revolts.
The Future Movement leader also warned that Lebanon’s policy of disassociating itself from developments in Syria could have repercussions down the line.
"[With this policy] Lebanon today is placing itself in the eye of the storm and when the Syrian regime collapses, what will the Syrian people's position be toward Lebanon's decision of disassociation?” Hariri asked.
“Distancing Lebanon is not what I would do. That is [Prime Minister] Najib Mikati’s position,” he said.
Hariri, who has in the past described Mikati as Hezbollah’s surrogate, toned down his rhetoric against the Tripoli MP.
“I felt more betrayed by Hezbollah than by Mikati,” Hariri, who spoke from his Paris residence, said.
Hariri also said Russia was standing by Assad but stressed that this would not serve Moscow’s interests in the long run.
“Russia will be in an unpleasant position and the results of its support to the Syrian regime will not serve its [Russia’s] interests,” he said.
“There is an Arab consensus regarding Syria and Russia should recognize this,” he said, adding: “Russia has taken the side of the Syrian regime.”
Hariri, who departed Lebanon in March after March 8 ministers forced the collapse of his Cabinet in January 2011, said he would return soon to the country and dismissed that his return was tied to development in Syria.
Asked about recent violence in the northern coastal city of Tripoli, Hariri said the unrest had been instigated.
“I tell our people in Tripoli: If there is support for the Syrian revolution, do not give anyone the opportunity to force Lebanon into developments in Syria and divert attention away from what is happening in Syria,” he said.
He advised Tripoli’s residents not to lose sight of the purpose of supporting Syrians calling for reforms.
Hariri, who spoke a day before the annual commemoration of his father’s assassination, said the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) would carry on.
“They know, all the Lebanese people know that the court’s work will go on,” the Future Movement leader said.
Four members of Hezbollah were in indicted in June 2011 in the case of Hariri’s assassination which occurred on Feb. 14, 2005 after a car bomb explosion claimed the lives of Hariri and 22 others. The U.N.-backed court has announced that it will proceed with in-absentia trials after failing to apprehend the four suspects.
“People should know that whoever commits crimes such as the assassination of Rafik Hariri or the martyrs of the ‘Cedar Revolution’ will be punished.”
“I advise the accused to surrender themselves because justice will be served,” he added.
Hezbollah denies involvement in the assassination of Hariri and its chief, Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, has said that the four suspects will not be apprehended but face in-absentia trials instead.