BEIRUT: Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour said Wednesday that critics of Hezbollah's role in Syria were seeking to divert attention from what he called the "takfiri" threat.
"Whoever claims that what is happening in Lebanon is the result of Hezbollah’s participation in Syria seeks to divert attention from the facts and [provide a] cover for the presence of takfiris and extremist groups in Lebanon,” Mansour said at Geneva II, the U.N. peace conference on Syria being held in Switzerland.
He also said that the repercussions from the crisis in Syria represented major challenges to Lebanon's security, stability, economy and demographic balance.
"Perhaps the primary danger here is terrorism which striking us today armed with radical, takfiri thoughts to reject others, something Lebanon has never witnessed before,” he said. “The repercussions from the Syria crisis ... have extended to neighboring countries where the region has become an arena for terrorism, becoming a reality of the fighting in Syria."
Calling for a joint international effort to combat terrorism, Mansour said groups linked directly to terrorist organizations had entered the country and carried out a series of bombings.
Lebanon has been rocked by a string of car bombs, most of which have taken place in Beirut’s southern suburbs where Hezbollah enjoys broad support. The explosions have killed dozens of people and wounded scores more.
Radical rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad's forces have claimed some of the bombings, including Tuesday’s suspected suicide attack, calling them retaliation for Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria.
The March 14 coalition has repeatedly blamed Hezbollah for the recent attacks. It says the party’s interference violates the country’s disassociation policy as well as the Baabda Declaration, an agreement signed by rival leaders in 2012 and ito distance Lebanon from regional turmoil, particularly the crisis in Syria.
In May last year, Hezbollah argued that its presence in Syria alongside regime forces was a pre-emptive strike against takfiri forces who were making their way into Lebanon.
During his seven-minute speech at the Geneva 2 peace talks, Mansour, a controversial figure in Lebanese politics, also spoke about the disassociation policy adopted by the government, saying the crisis in neighboring Syria was being heavily felt in Lebanon.
“Since the events in Syria began in March of 2011 ... Lebanon adopted a policy of disassociation aimed at neutralizing itself from the negative repercussions of this crisis,” he said.
"With this policy, we sought to refrain from intervening in the Syrian affairs but we knew from the beginning that Syria ... would be able to resolve its problems without direct or indirect foreign intervention."
He also said that foreign intervention in Syria had plunged the country into a cycle of violence "as the world counted its victims as well as the number of fighters from all over the world coming into [Syria].
“ Lebanon disassociated itself from the Syrian events but the events did not disassociate themselves from [Lebanon] and they affected its security and stability,” he added.
Mansour called on the international community to help Lebanon cope with the overwhelming number of Syrian refugees on its soil.
“This burden has exceeded Lebanon's capabilities and resulted in repercussions on the economic, social and security situation,” he said.
Mansour described the peace talks as a "golden opportunity" to reach a political solution in Syria and allow the refugees to return to their home country.
"The solution can only be Syrian and the Syrians alone can decide the future of their nation at a distance from interventions that only worsen the situation,” he said.