BEIRUT

Lebanon News

March 14 in talks to decide whether to attend Dialogue

Officials from March 14 coalition gather during the weekly meeting in Ashrafieh, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (Mohammad Azakir/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Monday that discussions are ongoing among parties of the March 14 alliance ahead of its decision on whether to attend the National Dialogue session Thursday.

“There are ongoing consultations among parties of the March 14 coalition, and I hope that everything will work out for the best,” Siniora told The Daily Star.

“In principle, we support communication between all Lebanese groups,” added Siniora, who heads the Future parliamentary bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Siniora dismissed media reports that he had been scheduled to discuss the Future Movement’s attendance at the Dialogue with President Michel Sleiman Monday, saying he had agreed with Sleiman to meet later this week.

The Sidon MP said that the arrest of former Information Minister Michel Samaha would not affect the movement’s decision on whether to attend the National Dialogue.

Samaha, a close ally of the Syrian regime, was arrested last week and charged along with a high-ranking Syrian military official in a terror plot aimed at destabilizing Lebanon.

The March 14 coalition boycotted National Dialogue last month over Hezbollah’s unwillingness to discuss its arms, an issue the coalition argues is the only remaining item on the agenda of the talks.

The alliance also demanded that Hezbollah lift its protection of those suspected of participating in attempted assassinations.

Batroun MP Boutros Harb, who was the target of an attempted assassination in July, said that a Hezbollah security operative ordered to take part in the investigation refused to participate. Security sources have named the operative as Mahmoud Hayek.

The coalition had also objected to the government’s unwillingness to provide security bodies with telecoms data that March 14 argues is necessary to track suspects. The government later provided the information.

Meanwhile, a source from Baabda Palace said that Sleiman was still waiting to hear March 14 coalition’s final decision about Thursday’s meeting.

“Nothing is known so far [about whether the session will convene]. This will become clear in light of the stance of the March 14 coalition,” the source said.

In a speech earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said a genuine and realistic national defense strategy must be based on coordination between the Lebanese Army and the resistance. He said that as well as a national defense strategy, Lebanon also needed a policy to “liberate the Kfar Shuba Hills and Shebaa Farms still occupied by Israel.”

The Hezbollah leader said that the March 14 coalition is not interested in discussing a defense strategy, but only in having Hezbollah surrender its arms in line with the United States’ agenda.

In comments published Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri slammed the March 14 coalition’s approach to National Dialogue, saying its delay in responding to the invitation to resume all-party talks was unacceptable.

“The way the March 14 coalition is dealing with the National Dialogue and the president is insulting and unacceptable,” the head of the Amal Movement said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 14, 2012, on page 1.

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