SIDON, Lebanon: Sheikh Ahmad Assir toned down his rhetoric against Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Speaker Nabih Berri Sunday, but reiterated his calls for a serious discussion of Hezbollah’s arms during the National Dialogue.
Addressing around 300 young men visiting from the northern city of Tripoli who were shouting chants against Nasrallah, Assir said: “I do not like to hear chants against Hasan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri because I simply don’t like to hear chants against me and against others. I call on my guests to use restraint.”
“We need to hear chants of unity so that we can live in peace and security,” Assir told the young men, who visited him in a show of solidarity at the site of a sit-in he started more than two weeks ago to protest against Hezbollah’s arms.
“Integrate your arms, which are dominating the state, in a defense strategy in which we all take part,” Assir said, directing his remarks at Nasrallah.
“We all want to resist the Zionist enemy which we hate. We resisted [it] before you and we are ready to resist it in your presence and after you,” Assir continued.
The controversial sheikh’s sit-in began on June 28 and continues to block a major road connecting Sidon to Beirut.
Assir says that he will only end his protest if Hezbollah’s arms, which he argues are dominating all aspects of life in Lebanon, are seriously addressed.
In the early days of the sit-in, Assir harshly criticized Nasrallah and Berri, but he has since softened his remarks.
“I raised my voice and told you Hasan Nasrallah to listen to your conscience, your feelings and your sense of belonging to Lebanon – let us live in peace and security and respect [for one another],” Assir added Sunday.
The sheikh warned that if the topic of arms is not tackled it could spark a new civil war in Lebanon.
“The civil war we grew up in was disgusting and repulsive – no side emerged victorious ... We are still saying that our action is peaceful,” Assir said.
Some of the supporters visiting Assir waved pre-Baath flags, a symbol protesters have used during the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“On behalf of the honorable people of Sidon ... we welcome our brothers coming from the far north to the south to support their brothers who say ‘no’ to the domination of arms on all free Lebanese,” Assir said.
Jihad Bakhash, who spoke on behalf of the visitors, said that the people of Tripoli can no longer endure the domination of Hezbollah’s arms. “We were oppressed and displaced under the pretext of resistance’s arms,” he said.
Assir called for a transparent investigation into the killing of prominent anti-Assad Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Wahed and his companion Mohammad Hussein al-Mereb, shot dead at an Army checkpoint in Akkar on May 20.
He also called for a similar investigation into the death of Khodr Masri, who was reported to have been killed by the Lebanese Army during clashes between supporters and opponents of Assad in Tripoli last year.