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Tripoli clashes fueled by sectarianism: Hezbollah

Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem speaks in front of students at the LU in Hadath, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Sectarian sentiments fueled the week-long clashes in the northern city of Tripoli, Hezbollah's Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem said Tuesday.

“What helped in igniting Tripoli clashes is sectarian provocation and strife which doesn’t take humanitarian and moral standards into consideration,” said Qassem, according to the National News Agency.

According to the Hezbollah official, the Tal Kalakh incident, in which a number of northern fighters were killed during an ambush by the Syrian regime, is a clear indication of the negative repercussions of plunging Lebanon into the Syrian crisis.

“We have repeatedly warned against plunging Lebanon in Syria’s clashes and the negative consequences of such involvement for Lebanon,” said the official.

Clashes in the northern city between the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tebbanah and the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen lasted several days last week, leaving at least 17 dead in Tripoli and over 100 wounded.

The fighting came to an end Monday as the Army implemented a security plan.

According to Qassem, it is time rival Lebanese parties are aware of the importance of dialogue and realize Lebanon is a country of diversity that includes all sects.

“Dialogue is the one solution to reach unity [among rival parties]. It’s about time that everyone realizes Lebanon is for all sects and no group can eliminate the other in the country,” said the official.

Addressing the country’s political crisis, Qassem slammed the March 14-led opposition boycott that has been going on for nearly two months and said it will not succeed in bringing down Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet.

“Boycott cannot bring down a Cabinet that secures political stability,” said Qassem.

The official added that the best solution to Lebanon’s crisis is to maintain the current Cabinet and work on formulating a modern and fair law for the coming 2013 parliamentary elections.

Following the Oct.19 assassination of a top security official, March 14 declared a boycott of the Cabinet, holding it responsible for providing political cover for the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, which the coalition accuses Syria of being behind.

To increase pressure over Mikati, the opposition has said it will not resume National Dialogue until he steps down.

The repercussions of the assassination also spilled over into discussions of a new electoral law, as the March 14 lawmakers said they stopped attending meetings of the parliamentary sub-committee discussing the relevant bills “for security reasons.”

However, the opposition lawmakers said Monday they decided to resume talks with their March 8 rivals on a new electoral law in the absence of Cabinet representatives.

 

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