BEIRUT: Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn voiced concern Thursday over the security situation in Lebanon and warned against attempts to provoke strife in the country.
Meanwhile, the head of the Lebanese Army voiced assurances of the army’s integrity, saying there would be no repeat of the events of 1976, apparently referring to the period during Lebanon’s civil war when the military fractured along sectarian lines.
“The whole [security] situation is not reassuring. The winds of strife are looming on the horizon because some people, either intentionally or unintentionally, are trying to trigger [strife] without considering the devastating effects it may have on the country,” Ghosn said.
He said the situation in the country required “exceptional efforts from all Lebanese to protect Lebanon from malicious strife.”
“The Army is doing much more than its capacities and it will not hesitate to carry out its duty to the fullest,” he added.
His comments, according to the National News Agency, came during a meeting with a delegation that included George Bashalani, the father of slain Capt. Pierre Bashalani.
Capt. Pierre Bashalani and Sgt. Ibrahim Zahraman were killed in an ambush on a Lebanese Army unit in the border town of Arsal on Feb. 1.
During the meeting, Ghosn praised the “big sacrifices that the Lebanese Army, both officers and soldiers, have offered and informed the delegation that the blood of the two martyrs ... would not go in vain.”
The defense minister also met Thursday with the commander of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra, and the two discussed the security situation in south Lebanon and the tasks carried out by the Army in cooperation with the U.N. peacekeepers.
According to the NNA report, both Ghosn and Serra stressed the need to “enhance cooperation between the two sides and to preserve calm in the south in light of the accelerating and dangerous developments in the region.”
Also Thursday, Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi stressed that the army was determined to safeguard Lebanon from the repercussions of regional conflicts.
“The army is determined now, more than ever, to prevent the effects of the regional conflicts on Lebanon and to confront any side that attempts to provoke religious and sectarian strife with the aim of targeting the prestige of the state and national unity,” Kahwagi said during meetings with senior Army commanders and officers, according to the military’s website.
Kahwagi also gave assurances that that military would remain united and that it would confront any strife in the country.
“The circumstances of 1976 will never be repeated and that is due primarily to the unity of the Army and its immunity and decisive decision to confront strife as well as Lebanese from different affiliations and sects rallying around [the military],” he said.
He also hailed “the efforts exerted by the Army and its sacrifices to safeguard security and stability in different Lebanese areas,” citing recent achievements by soldiers in arresting members of gangs, including those involved in kidnappings in the country.