Lebanon News

Geagea mocks National Dialogue

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea speaks during a ceremony in Byblos, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 10, 2012. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea mocked the outcome of the recent National Dialogue session at Baabda Palace and said Hezbollah only wanted to appear as though it was willing to discuss its weapons. “We are with any serious dialogue, but in fact the Baabda declaration reminded me of civics lessons we used to take at intermediate school,” Geagea said in an interview with Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh.

During their first National Dialogue session in over 18 months, rival political leaders agreed to commit themselves to dialogue and avoid actions that fuel sectarian incitement.

In their second meeting, political leaders called on the government to set up a mechanism for disarming Palestinian groups outside refugee camps and agreed to discuss a platform for a national defense strategy, ostensibly to include Hezbollah’s weapons, to be presented by President Michel Sleiman in July.

Geagea said Hezbollah was not serious about the dialogue even though Sleiman was trying hard to reach concrete results on the national defense strategy.

“Hezbollah is not ready for a serious dialogue and the party is sitting at the table ... to present itself as being supportive of dialogue,” he said.

March 14 parties are seeking a defense strategy that would eventually integrate Hezbollah’s arsenal into that of the Lebanese Army, but the party is adamant about keeping its arms.

Also Sunday, Hezbollah official in the Bekaa Mohammad Yaghi reaffirmed that his party’s weapons would not be taken from their hands.

“We say that the resistance’s weapons will remain in our hands until the land is liberated and no one should think that they can do anything about it,” he said at a meeting in Baalbek.

Yaghi said he did not condone people’s efforts to incite sectarian strife, and added that the party had suffered slights in the past without bringing the specter of internal war.

“Some people today want to take the country to the fires of sectarian strife, we are aware that they are acting under delusional and frail notions that they think will take them somewhere,” he said.

Yaghi said Hezbollah had remained calm without resorting to sectarian incitement. “We have been silent about our injuries. We endured insults and conspiracies, we suffered a lot and paid high prices for that.”

Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun also weighed in on dialogue and current events Sunday, saying the need for internal security and stability superseded discussions over a national defense strategy and Hezbollah’s arsenal.

“[Talk] on a national defense strategy or the removal of weapons will serve no purpose if the internal stability and national unity is being targeted,” Aoun told a local newspaper in an interview published Sunday.

“I don’t talk about the resistance and the defense strategy now before there are discussions on security and stability, subjects which I give priority to because they are an open fire,” he said, referring to his engagement in the recently relaunched National Dialogue.

“They [on the other hand] stress on the weapons of the resistance and the government,” he said.

Aoun described the National Dialogue sessions as a positive step. “They [talks] need to be given a chance. This attempt is a positive thing and we lose nothing by it, even if we are not able to achieve anything, at least we can say we tried.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 02, 2012, on page 4.




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