BEIRUT: While criticizing politicians for turning the case of the abducted soldiers and policemen into a sectarian matter, Prime Minister Tammam Salam also warned media outlets that their competition for exclusive news was placing the lives of the captured troops in danger.
“There have been statements by some politicians and others that only result in tensions and do not help us in confronting the dangerous, imminent security threat that is facing the entire region ... and Lebanon,” Salam, surrounded by reporters, said after meeting Speaker Nabih Berri.
“These kidnapped soldiers are our sons ... because they headed to Arsal, placing their lives at risk, to confront this terror that has no religion not for a certain group, sect or religion.”
Since the end of the clashes earlier this month in the northeastern border region of Arsal, local television channels and newspapers have been racing to publish information from captors and possible deals to release the kidnapped personnel.
The Nusra Front is said to be holding three soldiers and 15 policemen out of the 29 security personnel held hostage by the militant groups. ISIS is holding the 11 others and a corpse of a deceased soldier.
The militants have so far released eight security personnel - five policemen and three soldiers.
Angered by questions on the ongoing efforts to release the soldiers, Salam spoke about the fierce competition among journalists in Lebanon, saying such behavior negatively affected the ongoing negotiations.
This constant competition, Salam said, “placed the lives of soldiers at risk.”
“Publishing information and details about the release of the soldiers is only complicating the case and disrupting all efforts aimed at their release.”
“We have been listening to some statements by the media and politicians distinguishing between Sunni, Shiite and Christian soldiers. This is shameful,” he said.
He said his government was shouldering its responsibility and working relentlessly to guarantee the safety of the soldiers.
“They are defending Lebanon not a politician!” he stressed.
The prime minister said he held talks with Berri about possible solutions to end the paralysis in the presidential election, hoping political leaders would elect a new president, which would pave the way for the parliamentary polls.
“It is important to speak with Speaker Berri if someone wants to find solutions to the crises, primarily the big constitutional crisis [that is] the inability of political forces to elect a new president for the republic,” he said.
"Contacts and efforts are ongoing, but time is running out and the country is paying a high price for this paralysis in the presidency in terms of their security and livelihood.”
"The security threat comprises the biggest share in [the price people are paying]. There are [people] who seek to inflict damage on Lebanon and the Lebanese.”