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Sleiman criticizes Hezbollah’s role in Syria crisis

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman speaks during a ceremony in Beirut, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman called on Hezbollah Monday to avoid intervening in Syria, saying the resources of the resistance belonged to all the Lebanese. “The national capabilities, which are the Army, the state and the resistance, do not belong to a faction or sect,” he added. “They belong to the nation and cannot be biased, and the nation must decide how to use these capabilities.”

Sleiman said the resources of the resistance should be placed under the control of the Lebanese state.

“The resistance cannot have a monopoly on intervention in internal and external affairs,” he said.

Hezbollah fought alongside Syrian troops in the border town of Qusair earlier this year, helping dislodge rebels from the vital supply hub, in contravention of the Baabda Declaration.

Sleiman urged all the Lebanese to adhere to the accord, which stresses Lebanon’s neutrality toward the events in Syria, controlling the border and preventing the flow of arms.

In an apparent jab at Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria, Sleiman said it was necessary for all Lebanese to “turn inward, to the nation” in order to “protect the resistance.”

Sleiman was speaking on the occasion of his transfer to the presidential summer residence of Beiteddine in the Chouf Mountains.

He called for renewed support for the Lebanese Army, saying it should be supported and “not betrayed or accused, or its job made difficult.”

Sleiman called for a swift Cabinet formation, saying he supported one that included all political blocs but that his position should not be exploited by the various factions by putting unrealistic demands on the formation.

“We must form a government in the nearest future,” he said. “This is what I say to everyone.”

He pointed out that constitutional deadlines were approaching amid the political deadlock such as the task of choosing a new president when his term expires in 2014.

Cabinet formation efforts remain stalled, with the various political blocs unable to agree on the shape or political orientation of a future government.

Sleiman also touched on the Syrian refugee crisis, which he described as a source of “great pressure” on the Lebanese. “This small plate cannot fit this number of refugees,” he said, referring to Lebanon. “For everyone and for all the Lebanese, and the refugees too, this displacement must be addressed and regulated.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 13, 2013, on page 3.

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