BEIRUT: Head of the Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora vowed Sunday to confront the presence of illegitimate arms in Lebanon, in a clear reference to Hezbollah, during the funeral procession of slain former Minister Mohammad Shatah who was laid to rest at the mausoleum of former PM Rafik Hariri.
Shatah, 62, was killed in a car bomb Friday along with seven others including a 16-year-old in the commercial district of Downtown Beirut. The explosion also wounded 70 people.
“The March 14 coalition has decided to free the nation from the occupation of illegitimate arms so we could protect our independence and guarantee our sovereignty and civil peace,” Siniora, a former PM, said at the mausoleum in Downtown Beirut where hundreds, including government officials and politicians, flocked to the Beirut mosque to bid farwell to the veteran diplomat.
“We say to the Lebanese and the family of Mohammad Shatah: We will not surrender, back down or fear criminals, terrorists and murderers; they are the ones who should be in fear,” he added.
“They kill so they could tighten their grip and we reiterate our commitment for a Lebanon of coexistence, freedom, equality, human rights, peaceful alternation of power and respect to the Constitution,” Siniora said.
The veteran diplomat who was also former PM Saad Hariri’s senior adviser was on his way to a meeting of the March 14 coalition at Hariri’s residence in Beirut.
Seen as a moderate figure in the March 14 coalition and the Sunni community, Shatah was a former finance minister and a former ambassador to the U.S.
Hariri, who has been out of the country for over two years for security reasons, has implicitly blamed Hezbollah for Shatah’s assassination while the March 14 coalition has accused Syria and its allies in Lebanon for the killing.
In his speech at the funeral procession following prayers at the mosque, Siniora said Shatah was killed with “cold blood without shame or hesitation,” saying the perpetrators repeat their crimes thinking they will get away with it.
“They indulge in killing, destroy the economy and living conditions, and ruin Lebanon’s ties with its Arab surrounding and the world but we will not turn into killers and destroy Lebanon like you are doing,” Siniora said.
The coalition, Siniora said, rejects bullying, terrorism, extremism, and violence.
“Despite the level of arrogance you have reached and how much lies and fabrications you have disseminated, you will fade,” he added.
Shatah’s assassination was the latest among a serious of bomb attacks that have targeted several areas across the country throughout the year, killing and wounding hundreds.
Tripoli Mufti Sheikh Malek Shaar said voices of moderation will prevail in Lebanon and that a new government would be formed soon for the sake of the country’s interest.
“We will not retreat from the path of state-building and we will reject all forms of violence,” Shaar said at the mosque surrounded by PM-designate Tammam Salam and Future bloc head MP Fouad Siniora.
“Righteousness will be victorious and moderation will always prevail,” he added.
Shaar said a new Cabinet will be formed soon “to address people’s issues without any [imprudent] reactions but with wisdom.”
“The Cabinet will be formed soon without spite but consensus for the sake of the country’s interest and the security of the citizens so that Lebanon remains sovereign, free and independent and for loyalty to be exclusive to the nation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah MP Hussein Musawi responded to accusations against the party over Shatah’s assassination, saying hasty allegations only harm stability.
“Wise people have always said that hasty accusations harm the ongoing investigation and the unified stance against the criminals,” Musawi said in a statement.
“The core problem some people have with us is that we believe there is a need to fight the Zionist germ to save our future,” he said. “We hope that those would leave us be as we face the enemy and its agent."