BEIRUT: Around 200 students and members of the Progressive Socialist Party called on the expulsion of the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, Friday, two days after a similar March 14 rally in Ashrafieh.
While formerly part of the March 14 coalition, PSP officials insist the party is not allied with either March 14 or March 8 groupings. However, the party’s stance on the situation in Syria coincides with that of the opposition.
PSP’s Progressive Youth Organization gathered its supporters in Downtown Beirut’s Samir Kassir Square Friday while Wednesday’s rally saw March 14 student organizations gather in front of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
But the slogans and chants against the Lebanese government and the envoy at the two rallies were similar.
The Damascus envoy has come under fierce criticism from the opposition following repeated Syrian incursions into Lebanese territories that have resulted in dozens of casualties in Lebanese border towns.
Zafer Nasser, the secretary-general of the PSP, told The Daily Star that the March 14 coalition and the PSP were no longer part of the same alliance, and stressed that a joint protest would have been a “fabrication” of an alliance.
According to Nasser, any joint demonstration gathering together the PSP and March 14 parties would not, it itself, create a strong political alliance, adding that an agreement on the Syrian crisis was not a sufficient factor behind any potential return to the March 14 coalition
“Any such joint demonstration would be a fabricated alliance and not a real one ... Let us wait for the right time when the political situation allows for a real alliance,” said Nasser, who was among the few PSP officials who took part in the protest in Beirut Friday.
Nasser also said that the Foreign Affairs Ministry should at least summon the Syrian ambassador to question him on the recent terror plots that were thwarted by the Lebanese security forces, and allegedly involved Syrian regime figures.
Ayman Kamaledine, secretary of PSP’s youth organization, said Friday’s protest would be followed by a number of other actions if the government fails to summon Ali.
Demonstrators raised banners that read “Expelling the ambassador is a Lebanese duty toward children ... Representative of a criminal regime is a criminal ambassador.”
Chanting anti-Assad slogans, many PSP supporters said that allowing the Syrian ambassador to remain in Beirut was a “disgrace to the hundreds of children who have become victims of torture and massacre in Syria.”
“The presence of the Syrian ambassador in Lebanon is also hurting the country and its freedoms,” said Hanin Slia, a PSP supporter from Hasbaya.
Another PSP activist said that the demonstration was a message to the Syrian regime that many Lebanese no longer want a Syrian envoy in Beirut.
“Parties who are supporting the presence of the ambassador have relations with the Syrian regime, and so they are pressured to support the ambassador,” said Karim Souki, a student.
Souki also said that the time was right for the PSP and the March 14 political parties to reunite behind an “independent” stance against the violations of the Syrian regime.
“Supporters of the March 14 coalition and the PSP will continue to take to the streets and call for the immediate expulsion of the Syrian ambassador,” he said. “Just like our movement led to the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005, we are able to expel the Syrian ambassador today.”