SIDON/BEIRUT: Controversial Sheikh Ahmad Assir warned that the sit-in he and his supporters are holding on the highway in the southern coastal city of Sidon will continue until a solution to the issue of Hezbollah's arms is devised.
"We will not return to our homes until a peaceful solution is found," Assir told reporters in Sidon, adding that remaining silent in the face of what he described as Hezbollah’s hegemony of arms would create strife.
"The sit-in will remain in place until death [if need be], and we will adopt escalatory steps," he said, adding that even if he and his supporters are subjected to violence, they will not respond in kind.
Around 150 protesters set up a tent and blocked the highway connecting Sidon to south Lebanon Thursday in continuation of a protest against non-state arms that began Wednesday.
Hundreds of protesters blocked the northern and southern entrances to Sidon Wednesday evening by lying on the road. Protesters held signs calling for a peaceful protest until non-state arms are eliminated.
Assir has repeatedly criticized Hezbollah's arsenal and demanded the resistance party surrender its weapons.
Earlier Thursday, figures and officials tried to convince Assir not to resort to an open-ended sit-in, but to no avail.
Sidon Mufti Sheikh Salim Soussan arrived at the scene of the sit-in and held a private meeting with Assir in a bid to convince him to call off the protest. The Mufti left without making any statement.
Head of the Internal Security Forces in south Lebanon Brig. Gen. Tareq Abdallah also met with Assir in a bid to put an end to the sit-in and reopen the road.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Assir said the "peaceful protest aims at putting an end to the resistance's arms."
He added that the National Dialogue sessions between rival political leaders to discuss a national defense strategy to benefit from Hezbollah's arsenal are a "waste of time."
Separately, Assir told reporters, “All Lebanese fear war and strife but we can no longer live without dignity; the resistance party's arms stole our dignity.”
Meanwhile, Baath Party MP Qassem Hashem voiced surprise at the way the government is dealing with what he dubbed "the Assir phenomenon" and said the Cabinet’s approach smacks of "mendicancy and subservience to the logic of debauchery.”
“Have the prestige of the state and the Cabinet's orders [to prevent road blockage] become hostage to the whims of some?” Hashem asked in a statement.
“What is needed is decisiveness and firmness in the face of this dangerous phenomenon. Blocking the entrance to the south is dangerous behavior,” he added.