BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged Wednesday leaders in the country to refrain from the use of fiery political rhetoric and to return to the National Dialogue table in light of the recent attacks on Muslim preachers in the country that almost dragged Lebanon into a state of chaos.
Meanwhile, the state prosecutor investigating the two Sunday evening attacks said a probe indicated the “charged climate” in the country was to blame for the incidents.
“It's true that the majority of Lebanese leaders swiftly voiced their condemnation of the incident but what happened confirms once again the need to stop incitement and fiery speeches and to meet again at the [National] Dialogue table without pre-conditions,” Mikati said during a session of Cabinet.
He said such steps would reduce tensions on the street and prevent attempts to harm national security and stability in the country in what he described as “the difficult regional circumstances.”
Four Sunni Muslim scholars were assaulted in separate Beirut neighborhoods Sunday that left leaders scrambling to prevent the rise of sectarian tensions in the country. The two attacks prompted young men to use burning tires to block roads in various parts of the country.
Expressing his “personal pain” over the incidents, Mikati said the attacks were apparent aimed at igniting sectarian strife in Lebanon.
He also praised the wisdom of Muslim religious leaders and other Lebanese leaders over their call for calm, which “formed a needed safety net to prevent strife.”
“The incident was followed by various reactions, primarily the blocking of roads in several areas that created a tense atmosphere, but the quick response by security forces, particularly the Lebanese Army, in arresting the assailants and referring them to investigation [defused the situation],” he said.
“I especially praise the efforts of Speaker Nabih Berri, who quickly moved to resolve the repercussions of the incident,” he added.
Meanwhile, State Prosecutor Hatem Madi blamed the “charged climate” prevailing in the country for the attacks.
“Probes by the Lebanese Army Intelligence indicate that the direct motive behind the two attacks is the recently charged climate prevailing in the country,” Madi said, according to the National News Agency.
“There were no motives of a political, party or group [nature] behind the [two] assaults,” Madi, quoting the report, said.
The two incidents were also not linked, he added.
“Investigations by the Lebanese Army Intelligence indicate that there is no link between the assault on the two sheikhs in the lower Basta [Khandaq al-Ghamiq] area and the incident involving the two sheikhs in Shiyah,” Madi said.
Sheikh Mazen Hariri and Sheikh Ahmad Fekhra were attacked and beaten up by a group of Shiite men in Beirut’s Khandaq al-Ghamiq neighborhood Sunday evening shortly after leaving the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in the downtown area.
In a separate incident, Sheikh Ibrahim Abd al-Latiff and Sheikh Omar Imany were assaulted in Shiyah.
Madi said the probe was ongoing in order to ascertain whether the seven detained over the incidents had any accomplices.
Meanwhile, the general secretariat of the March 14 coalition joined its voice to its allies in the Future Movement and urged the Cabinet to refer the case to the Higher Judicial Council.
Slamming the “cowardly” attack on the four Sunni preachers, a statement by the group after its weekly meeting said: “The attack on the sheikhs is an attack against state security and the prestige of the state."
It called for referring the cases to the Higher Judicial Council, which is concerned with cases that threaten civil peace, and urged the government to put an end to these “suspicious” practices.
Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri said the security situation should be given priority and urged more support for security forces in their mission persevere civil peace.
During his weekly meeting with MPs, Berri was quoted as praising the role played by officials, the Lebanese Army, police and the judiciary in the aftermath of the incident and asked for the harshest punishment for the perpetrators behind the incidents.
"[He] emphasized the wise and responsible stances that everyone adopted which blocked the road in front of strife and whatever is being planned for Lebanon," Berri was quoted as saying.
He also stressed on the need to fortify the “domestic scene” and strengthen national consensus in this "critical and difficult" phase that Lebanon is going through, amid dangerous regional developments.