BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri said Tuesday that those who call for an end to armed resistance against Israel should come up with an alternative way to end its occupation of Lebanese land. “Simply put, whoever does not want [armed] resistance has to put an end to occupation,” Berri said.
“We cannot accept advice to stop resistance, and they [those who give such advice] ignore that Israel’s Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] and most of his ministers visit their army troops every week to support occupation of our land and conduct drills in areas similar to the south [of Lebanon],” he added.
Berri spoke during an acceptance speech after he was granted the Elias Hrawi Award at a ceremony that marked six years since the death of the former president.
In attendance at the UNESCO Palace event were President Michel Sleiman, First Lady Wafa Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and a host of ministers and MPs.
Berri said that Hrawi’s beliefs can be drawn on to fashion the country’s defense strategy.
“In building our defense strategy ... we stress the principles of late President Elias Hrawi: First, not abandoning any piece of land in the south or Western Bekaa,” Berri said, adding that border demarcation and offshore maritime resources should also not be abandoned. The speaker voiced regret that some groups have not learned from the country’s past.
“Unfortunately we still have not drawn on the past. We still attend [National] Dialogue [sessions] under the patronage of President Michel Sleiman with hesitation, we still have our concerns and fears and do not have confidence in ourselves or in each other,” he said, lamenting that Lebanon is still divided by sectarianism.
The speaker praised Hrawi’s skills as a statesman. “I remember Hrawi today and everyday ... I go back to him to find answers – he was an expert in Lebanese politics,” Berri said. “He strived to bring all groups back to reality based on a respect for the formula of coexistence and the national pact.”
Hrawi’s term saw Lebanon end its 1975-1990 Civil War through the 1989 Taif Agreement, which was a decisive factor in ending the strife.
Berri said Hrawi would have seen the Lebanese Army as an example of discipline, morality and sacrifice for the nation. “I hear him [Hrawi] saying ‘we want an Army for all of the country, rather than for some of its sects.’”
Mikati said that Hrawi had been faithful to the principles which were enshrined in the Taif Agreement.
“It [the Taif Agreement] remains the road to a strong state which establishes balance between its institutions so that no one will dominate the other, but cooperate in harmony. This was the goal of President Hrawi,” Mikati said.
“Every time there is a crisis that some fear cannot be resolved, Speaker Nabih Berri comes up with the solution ... Speaker Berri is a statesman,” said the prime minister.