BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman urged Lebanese parties to distance the country from repercussions of developments in the Syrian conflict Sunday, while asking the U.N. to hold the perpetrators behind the alleged chemical attack near Damascus accountable.
Sleiman's remarks come as regional tensions spike over the Syrian conflict and a possible Western military intervention.
“As we strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons, we wish the United Nations and its Security Council will hold the perpetrators accountable,” Sleiman said at his summer residence in Beiteddine.
“In this regard, we affirm the importance of all Lebanese parties inside and outside to distance Lebanon’s land, airspace and people from repercussions of what could happen in developments and from reactions and counter reactions,” he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said that Syrian regime was behind the alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb, and advocates punishing President Bashar Assad by military strike. Obama said he would see the authorization of Congress before embarking on such a move.
Sleiman also reiterated his call for a political solution to resolve the two-year-old crisis in Lebanon’s neighbor that has weighed heavily on the country’s economic, security and political atmosphere.
“We should repeat the Lebanese principles which are the need to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria and not accept any foreign military intervention,” he said.
During his speech commemorating the anniversary of the 1939 creation of Greater Lebanon, Sleiman also asked parties to work together in Parliament and for the sake of the nation.
The president stressed the importance of committing to the Baabda Declaration which was approved in 2012 by rival political leaders to distance Lebanon from regional turmoil especially the Syrian conflict.
He also noted that Article 13 of last year’s declaration stipulated the need to control the situation along the Syrian- Lebanon border and not allow Lebanon to become a war smuggling passage.
“On this occasion, we wish that conflicting Syrian parties avoid targeting Lebanese territory similar to what happened and has been happening repeatedly in Baablbek, Hermel, Wadi Khaled ... and inside Lebanon,” Sleiman said, referring to repeated shelling from Syrian against border towns.
While he urged politicians to tone down their political rhetoric, Sleiman reiterated his call for an encompassing government and asked politicians to facilitate Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s task in forming a new Cabinet.
“We should form a unifying government very soon and attend National Dialogue to discuss the plan I presented ... based on the Baabda Declaration to fortify Lebanon and benefit from the resistance to preserve all national capabilities and develop them,” he said.
Sleiman presented last year a national defense strategy that would see Hezbollah’s arms placed under the command of the Army.
Sleiman criticized political boycotts of Parliament sessions and disruptions in the process of government formation.
“All political parties should not resort to boycott, disruption, or force quorum to be lost... such practices harm the foundation of democracy stipulated in the Taif Accord,” he said.
“If representation and Parliament were weakened, governance would lose its legitimacy and chaos would reign in the streets,” he said, adding that Lebanon should not a country of “recklessness and risk-taking.”
“ Lebanon should be governed with wisdom and not power and [the attempt] to break critical balances,” he said.
The president also commented on recent security measures taken by Hezbollah in its stronghold following two car bombs in Beirut’s southern suburbs and by some parties in Tripoli after bombings there.
“We should leave security to the Army and security institutions, justice to the judiciary and foreign policy to the president and government and not resort to pressure or threats when the international resolutions do not come as desires,” Sleiman added.
He also spoke about the brief detention of some Saudi diplomats by the resistance group earlier this week when the officials were in a Hezbollah stronghold.
“We should cooperate with the Army, the judiciary and security agencies and not attack the freedom of citizens and residents in Lebanon particularly diplomats given that such practices are outlawed and the judiciary should hold perpetrators accountable ,” he said.