BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Sunday the National Dialogue must go on, expressing regret that some parties have decided not to participate following hints from Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah that his party may also boycott the Dialogue.
“We must complete the discussion of a defense strategy that can protect us from the Israeli threat ... and from the threat of rampant arms and terrorism, which has claimed the lives of young people who do not appreciate the value of life granted to them by God,” Sleiman said in a speech during the launch of the First Alphabet Poetry Festival in Jbeil.
“We raise this subject on the eve of the National Dialogue that we called for in Baabda Palace to restore the Army's exclusive authority over arms, which can enhance [the military’s] capacity in fighting terrorism,” Sleiman said.
“We regret the decision by some of the [National Dialogue] Committee members not to attend,” the president added.
Sleiman’s speech comes one day before the first scheduled Dialogue session since 2012, amidst mounting opposition from some corners. The Lebanese Forces have and the Lebanese Democratic Party have both indicated they will not take part.
On Saturday, Nasrallah, whose party has been at odds with the president over its role in Syria, called for an early presidential election “so that we can launch a new phase in Lebanon."
"Then we can join [National] Dialogue [sessions] and discuss a national defense strategy and mutual cooperation," Nasrallah said.
Sleiman's six-year term ends on May 25, but the constitutional two-month period for Parliament to elect a new head of state started earlier this week.
The Hezbollah leader said he would not announce the party’s stance with regard to the National Dialogue sessions, but assured that “this atmosphere [of attacks on the resistance] will certainly affect our decision.”
The last Dialogue session was held in September 2012, during which Sleiman proposed a national defense strategy that would allow Hezbollah to keep its weapons but under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would enjoy a monopoly on the use of force.
For his part, MP Fadi Karam, from the Lebanese Forces, confirmed Sunday that his party would not attend the Dialogue session, describing it as “a waste of time.”
“The stance of the Lebanese Forces not to take part in Dialogue is still the same,” Karam told the voice of Lebanon radio station. “The right conditions for Dialogue are nonexistent and it is a waste of time."
Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan also announced that his party will boycott Monday's National Dialogue session.