BEIRUT: The war of words between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Future Movement resumed Tuesday, with FPM leader Michel Aoun threatening that many March 14 officials would end up in prison.
Speaking to reporters after chairing the weekly meeting of his Change and Reform bloc at his residence in Rabieh, Aoun lashed out at the Future Movement for what he considered a misinterpretation of remarks he made over the weekend against former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the head of the Future Movement.
Aoun said Saturday that Hariri has been issued a “one-way ticket out of Lebanon and the government,” adding that the Future Movement leader’s “era of paralyzing state institutions in a bid to control the country” was over.
“The word one-way ticket does not mean [that I am threatening Hariri’s life], I was given one of these [tickets] in 1990 and I rebelled and returned [to Lebanon],” Aoun said Tuesday, in reference to his forced exile in France between 1990 and 2005.
“[Former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri can rebel and return.”
The Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, which includes the FPM, toppled Hariri’s Cabinet on Jan. 12 in a long-simmering dispute over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Aoun threatened that many Future Movement officials would end up in prison. “Since they rejected the one way out, there is the one way in, as there is a big section in Roumieh prison being prepared to host them.”
The FPM leader said that the March 14 opposition to Mikati’s Cabinet was “belligerent and impolite.”
The Future Movement snapped back, saying that the rhetoric of Aoun and other FPM officials reflected “hatred and tension.”
“The vengeful intention of trying eliminating the other in the country is a policy which Hezbollah came up with and mastered in its political orientation and behavior,” said a statement released by the Future Movement after it convened under former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
“Facing these shameful remarks, which we condemn and reject, we would like to draw the attention of the Lebanese people to the vengeful logic which General Aoun is proud of adopting, and which has inflicted severe damage on the Lebanese in general, including those whom General Aoun claims to be defending,” said the statement.
The Future bloc said that this logic would have “dangerous repercussions” on Lebanon and the Lebanese if it continued in the future.
Meanwhile, Mikati expressed surprise over Aoun’s remarks.
“It’s not acceptable that we go beyond the regular political frame in our discussions and public conduct, especially in these difficult times which require everyone to be aware of national responsibility,” Mikati told reporters while leaving the Grand Serail.
Siniora responded Sunday to Aoun’s earlier remarks, saying that Aoun was delusional to believe he could end Hariri’s political career because it would imply the marginalization of millions of Lebanese.
“I tell those who are delusional, seeking to issue one-way tickets to millions of Lebanese, that it is easier for them to issue their own tickets and leave the country,” he said.
Separately, Hariri’s media office told The Daily Star Tuesday that the former prime minister was visiting Montreal, Canada with his family.
Hariri left Lebanon nearly two months ago amid reports of a plot to assassinate him.
The French newspaper Liberation reported last week that Hariri was taking “refuge” in Paris, as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia continued to believe that the former prime minister’s life is threatened by the Syrian regime in a plan to divert attention from its domestic problems.