President Michel Sleiman speaks during an interview with The Daily Star at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Lebanon, Wednesday, March 14, 2012. (The Daily Star/Grace Kassab)
BEIRUT: Just weeks before the end of his term in office, President Michel Sleiman is criticizing Hezbollah once more over its military role in Syria saying the party’s actions were harming Lebanon.
Hitting back at those who have accused him of breaking his oath to the country on the resistance, Sleiman said: “Did you forget that you [Hezbollah] went beyond your mandate on the issue of the resistance and went to Syria to fight there?”
“I said what I said because I am committed to the oath, but exceeding the mandate given to the resistance compelled me to speak out frankly because it’s my duty to tell the truth,” he told the local daily Al-Joumhouria in remarks published Friday.
Sleiman renewed his call for Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria “because your participation in the Syrian war has done great damage to Hezbollah and to Lebanon.”
Sleiman, whose six-year term ends May 25, pledged to seek an agreement on a national defense strategy “until the last day in office.”
The president said he would also work to secure the election of a new head of state.
"I will happily hand over my duties to the president-elect,” he said. “I will go home. I did my national duty and my conscience is clear. ”
Sleiman was elected on May 25, 2008, as a consensus candidate after months of delays in holding the election due to an ongoing political dispute.
The president reiterated his concern of a political vacuum should a new president fail to be elected.
“However, the formation of the government and approval of the ministerial statement and scheduling a National Dialogue should help create positive dynamics for the presidential election in a timely manner,” Sleiman added.
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