TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The March 14 coalition vowed during a conference in Tripoli Sunday that Lebanon’s second city would not fall victim to the strife and violence that they said was planned by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Attendees also called for reconciliation in Tripoli, similar to that which was achieved in the Chouf following Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War.
“From Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city, I say it to whoever wants to listen: Sunnis in Lebanon are people of moderation, wisdom and the state, they are people who adhere to the laws and the implementation of them. They will not be dragged to the plans of the Syrian regime to spark strife and divisions,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said during the gathering.
“I will say it frankly, in my name, that of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Future Movement and the entire March 14 coalition: The people of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen are all our family and members of one family,” he said, referring to the Tripoli neighborhoods that have fought one another with increasing frequency since the uprising erupted in Syria.
“But the goals and schemes of he who is provoking them [to fight] against each other are well-known as he is also implementing them in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Lattakia,” Siniora added, stressing that Tripoli was a city of moderation and coexistence.
Tripoli has seen frequent deadly clashes between opponents of Assad in the Sunni-dominated neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and rivals in majority Alawite Jabal Mohsen.
In August, car bomb attacks outside two Tripoli mosques also killed 47 people and wounded scores more.
Suspects in the attacks include members of a local pro-Assad party based in Jabal Mohsen.
Around 200 prominent religious and political figures gathered at the Quality Inn hotel in Tripoli for the conference, entitled, “Coexistence in the North is a Joint National Responsibility,” organized by the March 14 coalition.
Siniora, who heads the Future parliamentary bloc, said the intermittent clashes in Tripoli had left “great wounds in the city,” adding that residents would not succumb to plots hatched by the Damascus regime.
Siniora also reiterated his call on Hezbollah to end its military role in Syria and return to the logic of the state.“Hezbollah, who had the honor of effectively participating in fighting Israel and contributing to liberating the occupied land in 2000, has become a force of occupation and oppression by fighting alongside the Syrian regime, and did so before, by fighting the Lebanese in Beirut and other areas [in May 2008],” Siniora said.
Referring to Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria on the side of the Assd’s forces, he said: “Hezbollah committed a national sin when it insisted on not heeding the interests of the Lebanese. It must back off from this intransigence in order to open the door toward the restoration of national harmony to discuss outstanding issues.”
“Every day, Hezbollah is bringing ... the bodies of young men, who should have lived out their lives in this country with their families, instead of being killed while defending a treacherous regime and Iranian political interests,” the Future official added, referring to fighters killed while battling alongside regime forces in Syria.
Siniora also reiterated his support for the recent agreement between Iran and world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
“We welcomed the nuclear deal between Iran and the [P5+1] world powers. We say it frankly that Iran has the right to nuclear enrichment for peaceful purposes and it is unacceptable to have double standards by allowing Israel to keep weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
He called for seizing the opportunity created by the nuclear deal to improve ties between Iran and its Arab neighbors, who he said have a lot in common culturally and spiritually.
Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough deal last month to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, a historic first step toward resolving the dangerous decade-old standoff.
Siniora also called for the formation of a transitional nonpartisan government.
He voiced his opposition to the fanaticism and narrow-mindedness of some Christians and the extremism of some Shiites.
“At the same time, we oppose the extremism of some Sunnis and their tendency to turn to takfiri and violent methods,” Siniora said.
A statement issued at the end of the conference called for a reconciliation process in Tripoli, similar to what happened in the Chouf, beginning with the payment of compensation to the victims of violence after security in the city was restored and tension defused.
The group was referring to the historic reconciliation between the Druze and Christian communities in the Chouf that took place following Lebanon’s Civil War.
Attendees also called for bringing to justice all perpetrators involved in the bomb attacks that targeted two mosques in Tripoli, along with all those who assaulted people, attacked private and public property, and ran a protection racket in the northern city.
They also called for providing the Army and Internal Security Forces with political, moral and material support to restore security to the city.