BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri told The Daily Star Thursday that the security situation in the country had reached a dangerous level, adding that new security measures undertaken by the Higher Defense Council could “backfire.”
“The security situation is dangerous. Measures which the Higher Defense Council and the Cabinet agreed to implement are not bad; they might even be good, but the test lies in implementation,” Berri said.
The speaker called on top security officials to come up during their meetings with a mechanism to implement these measures.
“If these measures are not implemented, it will backfire on the government and it will be committing suicide,” Berri said when asked about the spate of kidnappings for ransom and other security incidents the country has witnessed over the past weeks.
The Higher Defense Council Wednesday promised swift action to combat the wave of kidnappings.
Nazih Nassar was the latest victim to be released by his kidnappers after being held for nearly a month. Nassar said Thursday his captors had decided to release him following Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s condemnation of kidnappings in a televised speech the day before. Nassar denied paying a ransom to his captors.
Army commander General Jean Kahwagi said the Army was eager to preserve national unity and public order in the country. Addressing visitors at his office in the Defense Ministry, Kahwagi said the Army was ready to confront strictly any attempt to drag Lebanon into strife and chaos.
Top officials have focused their efforts on allaying security concerns in Tripoli and Sidon, where tensions ran high after Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir said he and his followers would visit a nearby area he claimed was being used by Hezbollah to monitor his movements.
Army personnel deployed in Abra Thursday evening to prevent tensions.
Security sources told The Daily Star that security bodies would not allow Assir to block any roads.
Other sources said Akkar MP Mouein Merhebi from the Future Movement visited Assir Wednesday evening and conveyed to him a message from his party and the National Islamic Gathering of Tripoli. Assir was urged to refrain from acts that increased tension and they informed him that they could not support his actions, because of the ongoing attempts to reduce tensions in Tripoli.
Separately, Dar al-Fatwa’s General Directorate of Islamic Endowments denounced clerics who were making controversial remarks and stated that they did not represent the institution. A statement issued by the body also urged politicians and security bodies to act decisively to tone down rhetoric that stoked sectarian tensions.
“There are speeches that are increasing tensions and fanaticism. This prompts us to urge all politicians and security officials to address this situation very quickly and act decisively to stop this chaos,” the statement said.
“Stances made by some religious clerics do not represent the position of the General Directorate of Islamic Endowments which makes its stance every week through the text of the Friday sermon, which it distributes to sheikhs who deliver Friday sermons in Lebanon,” it added.
A source from Dar al-Fatwa told The Daily Star that the statement was a response to Assir’s Friday sermons.
A leading religious figure in Sidon, Sheikh Maher Hammoud, slammed Assir as a “liar” who was seeking to incite sectarian strife in Sidon.
“You depict yourself as the defender of Sunnis, and the Sunnis as the defeated sect, but you made great mistakes by saying so,” Hammoud told a news conference at his office in Sidon.
“Who gave you this right? Before you speak for Sunnis, shouldn’t you first know who Sunnis are? Are they those who follow you only?” he asked.