BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced a $15 million donation to Arsal before a delegation of the town's residents Monday, vowing to help reconstruct the town after heavy clashes between the Army and militants ravaged it.
“I am going to donate $15 million for the construction of schools, hospitals and necessary projects, which will be decided by a commission set up especially for that purpose,” Hariri told the delegation headed by Arsal’s mayor, Ali Hujeiri, this afternoon at his Downtown residence.
Hariri said that he would pursue all possible efforts to launch state-funded projects and services, vowing to allocate a budget to rebuild damaged houses and improve people's living conditions as much as possible.
"I want to assure you that we will be careful to not to repeat what happened to Arsal in the future, and we will do everything in our power to prevent" it from happening again, he said.
Hariri said that Arsal was targeted for its allegiance to former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s vision, lauding the residents for their efforts in uncovering and disrupting the plot targeting the town.
“We will not forget that Arsal’s loyal residents stood beside us the day Rafik Hariri was martyred, nor their wide participation in the March 14 protests, and I assure you that we will reciprocate loyalty with loyalty and our stand by Arsal will continue,” he said.
Hariri praised the residents of Arsal for their support toward the Army and state institutions, saying that Arsal locals only wished for the state to grow stronger so it could protect all of its citizens.
“We refuse for any Lebanese town or city to go through what happened in Arsal,” he said, thanking God for “allowing us to go out of this crisis with the least possible amount of loss.”
Separately, British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher visited Hariri at his Downtown residence Monday, pledging that his country would stand by Lebanon in the face of emerging difficulties.
“[I] welcome the decision by former Prime Minister Hariri to return to Lebanon at this time,” Fletcher said after the meeting, which was also attended by former MP Ghattas Khoury.
He said the significance of Hariri’s return laid in the fact that Lebanon, and the region, were facing “difficult moments.”
“It is a moment of mounting threats to the country and to its people,” he said.
He said it was “even more important” that the Lebanese political leaders unite in “a spirit of tolerance, moderation and consensus” and that they show “the necessary wisdom and courage to face together these threats.”
Stressing the United Kingdom’s commitment “to stand by the Lebanese people more than ever,” Fletcher said he was willing to carry out dialogue with Lebanese officials on the ways his country could assist Lebanon in difficult phases.
“In the coming days, I hope to be speaking further about ways in which we will show that when Lebanon is in trouble, Britain will remain on Lebanon’s side,” he said.
During his fourth day in Lebanon after three years of self-exile, Hariri received the head of the Lebanese General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim; head of the Internal Security Forces, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous; and the head of State Security, George Karaa, at his residence.
Hariri had announced that his return to Lebanon was to monitor the spending of the $1 billion donation by Saudi Arabia to the Lebanese Army, adding that his role was to foster moderation and support the state in fighting terrorism.
The Future Movement leader also met with the head of the National Liberal Party, Dory Chamoun, who expressed his confidence that the Sunni leader’s visit would “have a positive influence on Lebanon.”
Hariri also met with the EU ambassador to Lebanon, Angelina Eichhorst.
"I have just met with former Prime Minister and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri to welcome him back to Beirut. This is a positive step for Lebanon at a time when all forces need to unite and work together to address every challenge Lebanon is facing today. During our meeting, we discussed the overall political and security situation in the country with a particular focus on the presidential elections, the security developments, the refugee crisis and the economy,” Eichhorst said in a statement released after the meeting.
On the latest incidents in Arsal, Eichhorst reiterated the EU's condemnation of the attacks on the Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces.
“We agreed on the importance of preserving Lebanon's stability and highlighted the need for the voice of moderation to prevail. I assured former Prime Minister Hariri of the EU's steadfast commitment to stand by Lebanon and its people in these challenging times,” Eichhorst said.
For his part, the Hariri elaborated on the donation received from Saudi Arabia to support the Army and other security agencies.
Hariri also met with Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblatt later Monday.