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Mikati brushes off FSA arrest warrants
Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks during an interview with The Daily Star at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Monday, July 2, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks during an interview with The Daily Star at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Monday, July 2, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati has dismissed the announcement that the rebel Free Syrian Army will arrest him and two of his relatives should they enter Syria, a source close to Mikati said Thursday.

“These [threats] aren’t even worth a response because they come within the framework of a well-known media and political campaign,” the source told The Daily Star.

The Free Syrian Army said Wednesday it had issued arrest warrants against Mikati and two of his relatives over what it claimed was a Lebanese government decision to allow Syrian tanker trucks to fill up with diesel in Lebanon.

“The Revolutionary Justice [Council] issued this morning arrest warrants against Prime Minister Najib Mikati, his brother Taha, and his nephew,” Free Syrian Army spokesman Loay Meqdad told MTV late Wednesday.

Meqdad said the move came after a “dangerous” decision taken by the Lebanese Cabinet allowing Syrian President Bashar Assad, “to dispatch tanker trucks to Lebanon to stock up on fuel supplies to be used by tanks that are killing Syrian children.”

“In the event that Mr. Mikati, his brother Taha, or his nephew Azmi enter liberated or non-liberated territories in Syria, they will be arrested and handed over to the Revolutionary Justice [Council],” Meqdad warned.

Protesters in north Lebanon blocked roads in two border towns Wednesday, preventing tanker trucks from transporting diesel into Syria. The protesters claimed that the fuel was going to be used by the government in Damascus in its crackdown on those revolting against Assad.

The protest came a day after Lebanon’s Energy Ministry dismissed reports of fuel smuggling into Syria as “fabrications for purely political objectives,” amid concerns that local traders will run afoul of international sanctions against the war-torn country.

Meqdad said the Revolutionary Justice Council had assigned the FSA with the role of carrying out the arrests.

The FSA spokesman also said the council had tasked Aleppo’s rebel Inspection Authority with conducting an inventory of Mikati’s assets in Syria as well as those of his brother and nephew “as a prelude to the seizing of these properties.”

In Lebanon, the drivers of 20 trucks transporting diesel were advised against entering the city of Tripoli to avoid any problems with protesters, a security source told The Daily Star.

The source said that Internal Security Forces personnel informed the drivers that there were groups of men gathering in Tripoli to prevent them from continuing into Syria, prompting the drivers to return to Beirut.

Metn MP Salim Salhab, from the Free Patriotic Movement, told the Central News Agency that “a private company is transporting diesel from Lebanon to Syria,” and not the Energy Ministry.

Salhab said: “The Cabinet can’t direct the [fuel] trade because we practice free trade principles,” noting that “there is a private company buying the diesel which is not subsidized by the Cabinet, and exporting it to Syria.”

“If such activities are considered a breach of the international sanctions imposed on Syria then the private company will be held responsible, and not the Lebanese Cabinet,” he added.

Salhab slammed the practice of blocking roads to prevent the trucks transporting diesel. “Everyone is acting as if he lives in an independent entity,” the MP said, urging that the issue “be solved within a national and institutional framework and not in a political and chaotic way.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 15, 2013, on page 3.
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