BEIRUT: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called Monday for the permanent deployment of army units in the Bekaa, east Lebanon, even if at the cost of removing soldiers from south Lebanon.
“The security plan to be implemented in the Bekaa should not be limited to a timeline. However, the security forces should be present in the region on a regular basis even if that means transferring soldiers from south Lebanon to the country's eastern area,” Berri told a delegation of Bekaa clans.
Berri's meeting with representatives from the clans comes ahead of a military plan to deploy in east Lebanon as part of efforts to reign in criminal elements in the area.
The speaker said he addressed the issue of permanently deploying the army in the Bekaa with political authorities.
“I discussed the Bekaa situation with President Michel Sleiman, Hezbollah officials, and the Army commander [Gen. Jean Kahwagi] and urged the need for a permanent security plan in the region,” he said.
The speaker rejected labeling the Bekaa as an area for outlaws, saying that the Bekaa region served as the backbone for the resistance against Israel.
“Why do we now only hear news about kidnappings and drug smuggling in the Bekaa? Why should we deprive the area of development projects?” asked Berri.
He urged representative of clans to work on stressing the Bekaa’s positive aspects.
“We shouldn’t let the dark side of the region triumph over its bright side ... You are the ones that want the state, rather than being wanted by it,” Berri said.
He also said that residents of the Bekaa had thwarted sectarian disputes over the years and that they stood against Lebanese divisions, calling on the clans to cooperate with the Army in implementing its security plan.
Berri has been a stout supporter of implementing the military plan set for the Bekaa, a region that is pre-dominated by clans.