Lebanon News

Dialogue concludes, emphasizes need for defense strategy

President Michel Sleiman, right, heads a National Dialogue session in Baabda, Monday, May 5, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman's final National Dialogue session concluded Monday with participants emphasizing the need to continue studying the national defense strategy put forward by the president.

They also called for implementing past Dialogue resolutions in order to shore up security and stability in the country in a statement issued after the meeting, which lasted one and a half hours.

The statement cited the importance of the Baabda Declaration in shielding Lebanon from regional crises, and called for the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on time.

The majority of the March 8 and some March 14 parties boycotted the talks.

Speaking from Baabda, MP Walid Jumblatt hailed the president for his service.

“With steady nerves and patriotism, Sleiman succeeded in ushering the country through a critical phase, shielding it from tensions and affirming that there is not way out [of crisis] except through the Dialogue."

During the session, Sleiman criticized recent reports quoting Iranian officials saying that Lebanon is Iran’s first line of defense, and said such statements “contradict Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

“I will contact Iranian authorities to get a clarification over such reports,” the president said.

The meeting was devoted to evaluating the outcome of previous Dialogue sessions over recent years, with participants lauding the Dialogue for distancing Lebanon from the repercussions of the 2008 Israeli war on Gaza.

Sleiman said that the time was not convenient to discuss the country's national defense strategy.

Apart from Speaker Nabih Berri, no March 8 representatives attended the session. Hezbollah boycotted the talks for the second time in the row after differences with the president surfaced over the resistance’s role in Syria.

Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun also pulled out at the last minute, the National News Agency reported.

Political sources told The Daily Star that Aoun decided to cancel after he learned that Sleiman had criticized him in front of foreign diplomats.Conversely, Baabda sources said that Sleiman informed participants that Aoun called him and told him he was not attending Dialogue for "personal" and not "political" reasons.

Also absent were Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geaga, Marada Movement Chief Suleiman Frangieh, Syrian Social Nationalist Party MP Asaad Hardan and Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan.

The session was deemed a 'farewell' session for Sleiman, whose mandate ends on May 25.

Separately, Hezbollah official Ibrahim Amin Sayyed defended Monday Hezbollah’s role in Syria and said the party is defending Palestine.

“Syria is our first line of defense for Palestine, the nation, the people and our dignity. I told that to the brothers in Hamas,” he said.

“Our presence in Syria aims at protecting Palestine. Whoever wants to free Palestine should go fight in Syria against conspirators.”





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