BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Tuesday endorsed the Cabinet’s stance toward the Arsal clashes, while rejecting the extremist groups' use of Hezbollah's fighting in Syria as excuse to attack Lebanon.
“Our support to the Army in its fight against terrorism and the armed mobs that have smuggled into Arsal is a definite support that does not accept any other interpretation or any political outbidding,” the Future Movement leader said in a statement.
“We announce today that the Army’s battle against terrorism is the battle of all the Lebanese who believe in the state, its legitimacy and institutions,” Hariri continued. “We will be a strong political patron for the Army.”
However, Hariri clarified that his support to the Army’s struggle against the militants did not imply support for Hezbollah fighting inside Syria against the same or similar groups.
“As much as we refuse that any armed group uses Hezbollah’s participation in the fighting in Syria as an excuse to violate Lebanese sovereignty,” Hariri explained, “we will not, regardless of all excuses, be driven toward covering Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian struggle, and by that defying the principles of sovereignty and national consensus.”
Hariri supported the unanimous Cabinet decision to dismiss any political solution to the conflict, stressing that the military victory and expelling the militants from Lebanese territory was the only way possible to end the Arsal battle.
“We stand by the commands announced by the prime minister after the Cabinet meeting yesterday,” he said. “And we condemn the dirty attempt to target the Muslim Scholars Committee’s efforts by shooting on Sheikh Salem Rafei and his companions.”
He called the incident “an operation meant to drive the country into new cycles of tension and frustration.”
Hariri stressed that the Army’s sacrifices did not have any sectarian or political identity and did not belong to the spectrum of the sectarian classifications that have ruined national unity.
The former prime minister expressed condolences for the death of Army soldiers during the clashes, describing Arsal’s people as those of “free consciences” and praising their hosting of their Syrian brethren “escaping the oppression of the regime and its tyranny.”
At least 14 Army soldiers have been killed, 67 wounded and 22 gone missing so far in the Army fighting against armed groups, mostly coming from Syria, with the rebel Nusra Front suspected of having a dominant role.