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Sleiman: Saudi Arabia charges ‘reckless’
File - President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference in Baabda, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
File - President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference in Baabda, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
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BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman rejected what he called “reckless accusations” that Saudi Arabia was behind last month’s attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. “It is not acceptable to ruin the historic ties with a dear state and its people – here I mean Saudi Arabia – by making reckless accusations against it without judicial, real or concrete basis,” Sleiman said in a speech delivered in Jbeil during the opening of a conference titled “Dialogue, truth and democracy.”

Sleiman was responding, albeit indirectly, to remarks made Tuesday by Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah.

The party’s leader said in an interview aired Tuesday night that he was convinced a Lebanon-based Al-Qaeda group with direct links to Saudi intelligence was behind the Nov. 19 twin suicide bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.

Those attacks were claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, and investigations found a Lebanese man and Palestinian man carried out the attack. The suicide attacks killed 30 people, including an Iranian diplomat and wounded dozens of others.

Other March 14 officials also blasted Nasrallah’s allegations, saying they thwarted efforts by Speaker Nabih Berri to help achieve an Iranian-Saudi rapprochement.

Sleiman also reiterated Wednesday his criticism of any Lebanese party involved in Syria, in an apparent reference to Hezbollah’s intervention in the battles in Lebanon’s neighbor alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“This involvement [in Syria], by any side, is also condemned ... Our enemy waits and achieves one goal after another and it fulfilled one goal just today,” Sleiman said, referring to the assassination of a Hezbollah commander overnight in the Beirut suburb of Hadath.

Hezbollah accused Israel of being behind the assassination of the commander, Hassan al-Lakkis, who was shot outside his house in St. Therese, Hadath.

“Let’s draw a lesson from what our country is going through these days,” Sleiman said.

March 14 General Secretariat Coordinator Fares Soueid also rejected Nasrallah’s comments, which he called hasty and reckless accusations against Saudi Arabia. Nasrallah’s allegations also contradicted comments made by Iranian officials about the attack, he noted.

“A clear contradiction was obvious regarding the bomb attack between him and other leaders who revolve in Iran’s orbit,” Soueid told reporters following a meeting of the March 14 General Secretariat at its headquarters in Ashrafieh.

Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi claimed Israel was behind the suicide attack.

Nasrallah’s remarks hindered the path to heal strained relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Soueid said.

Berri visited Iran last month as part of those efforts, which Soueid said were necessary in order to resolve Lebanon’s deadlock. Such accusations against Saudi Arabia expose Lebanon, once again, to political threats, he added.

Soueid questioned how Nasrallah could make accusations without any proof when he regularly asks March 14 parties to refrain from accusing Syria of involvement in security incidents without any evidence.

In Nasrallah’s interview, he also chastised March 14 parties for exploiting and exaggerating land disputes between Shiites and Christians in Jbeil, as well as a student quarrel that erupted last month at the Université Saint-Joseph, which targeted Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement. Aoun is allied with Hezbollah. Soueid dismissed Nasrallah’s comments.

Echoing Soueid, Future Movement lawmaker Ahmad Fatfat said that Nasrallah’s verbal attack against Saudi Arabia amounted to a stab at Berri and at his efforts to bridge differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“Speaker Nabih Berri says that he agreed with Sayyed Nasrallah on working on bridging differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran and hints that he is ready to visit Saudi Arabia,” the MP told a local daily.

“Then Sayyed Nasrallah’s remarks come as such. This can only be interpreted as an attempt to silence Berri and torpedo attempts for an Iranian-Saudi rapprochement on one side and to do away with all the basis of internal consensus in Lebanon on the other.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 05, 2013, on page 4.
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