Lebanon News

Lebanese, foreign diplomats call for distance from Syria

File - Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Lebanon, Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians and foreign diplomats called Monday for distancing Lebanon from the repercussions of a military operation against Syria, by adhering to the disassociation policy.

The U.S. Congress began debating a strike against Syria Monday over its alleged use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb last month.

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt expressed hope that a possible U.S.-led military strike against Syria would not affect Lebanon.

“We hope that the security and chemical-related repercussions of the strike will not reach Lebanon, despite the possibility that the Syrian regime will involve Lebanon in this ever-escalating crisis,” Jumblatt said in his weekly statement to the PSP’s Al-Anbaa electronic newspaper.

He also criticized Lebanon’s politicians for overlooking local concerns and the needs of the Syrian refugees, “instead focusing their time and efforts on analyzing the strike against Syria.”

For his part, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called on all political rivals to commit to “the policy of disassociation from developments in Syria.”

Russia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin said his country was eager that Lebanon remained distanced from the Syrian crisis.

“[Russia] insists on distancing Lebanon from what is happening in the region, mainly Syria, so that the situation in Lebanon remains stable and safe,” Zasypkin said after meeting Mikati at the Grand Serail.

“This is one of the priorities of Russian foreign policy at the current stage,” he said, according to a statement from Mikati’s office.

Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Giuseppe Morabito, who also visited Mikati, stressed the need for Lebanon to adhere to the disassociation policy.

Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar said all Lebanese groups, including Hezbollah, should adhere to the disassociation policy, especially in the event of a U.S.-led military operation.

“Hezbollah’s arms can be used to fulfill the role of those who founded it,” Hajjar told a local television station.

“Hezbollah is no more than a tool at the hands of Iran, which uses it in its regional policy,” Hajjar added.

Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Sheikh Naim Qassem said that the possible U.S. aggression against Syria would affect the entire world.

“You see people in the Christian and Islamic worlds opposing the aggression against Syria because the Islamic and Christian worlds will be affected by the aggression,” Qassem said during a ceremony.

“It will even affect the entire world. Thus, we say to America: Stop your war and aggression and resort to reason again, think of a political solution and let the Syrians determine their own fate,” he said.

Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali promised victory for the Syrian regime in the ongoing conflict with the support of regional and international allies.

“Syria will achieve victory despite having lost great martyrs who embodied chivalry and Arabism,” the ambassador said during a gathering to express solidarity with the Syrian regime at its embassy in Yarze.

“The Syrian regime will triumph with the support of its allies in Lebanon, Iran, Russia, India, China and the BRICS countries,” he said referring to South Africa and Brazil.

Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghadanfar Roknabadi warned that the repercussions of the potential strike would affect all involved.

“We are doing our utmost to avoid the war because its fires will burn everybody, and all sides should make efforts to prevent it. No one can control this war,” Roknabadi told reporters after visiting Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun at his Rabieh residence.

Separately, President Michel Sleiman condemned attacks against holy sites, saying such places were a symbol of civilization and tolerance.

Syrian activists and residents said Sunday that Syrian rebels including Al-Qaeda-linked fighters have taken over the Christian village of Maaloula, some 45 kilometers from Damascus. Residents said that the rebels attacked Christian homes and churches there.

A statement by Sleiman’s office Monday said the president was extremely outraged by news about “acts of violence, sabotage and aggression against Christian people and places of worship.”

The statement said Sleiman made the remarks during a meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Nice over the weekend.

Sleiman described these acts as shameful, calling on all armed groups to respect the laws of war.

Sleiman also discussed these concerns Monday with Bishop Michel Qasarji, the head of the Chaldean sect, who visited him at his Beiteddine summer residence.

Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel said what was happening in Maaloula amounted to crossing a red line.

“What is happening in Maaloula [crosses] a red line and is unacceptable,” Gemayel said, speaking to reporters after he had chaired a weekly meeting of the Kataeb politburo at his Bikfaya residence.

“The Syrian opposition, which we stand by because we support change and diversity, should assume responsibility along with all groups, because we are so worried over what is happening in Maaloula and the Syrian opposition should be worried as well,” Gemayel said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 10, 2013, on page 3.

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