Lebanon News

March 14 officials slam Syria's U.N. envoy over Lebanon claims

A Syrian army truck is seen at a checkpoint for the Syrian army in the northeastern town of Hosh al-Sayyed Ali, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. (Rakan al-Fakih/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Members of the March 14 slammed Saturday recent accusations by Syria that Lebanon has become a center for smuggling fighters and weapons into its neighbor and accused Damascus of seeking to divert attention away from its months-long crisis.

“Syria’s attempt to destabilize Lebanon and come up with pretexts to launch aggressive acts against it have become far clearer through the letter by Syria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry representative at the U.N,” Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari said in a statement.

In a letter to U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon Thursday, obtained by Reuters agency Friday, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said some Lebanese areas next to the Syrian border were “incubating terrorist elements from Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Jaafari said the purpose of this process was to meddle with the security of Syrian citizens and undermine U.N.-Arab envoy Kofi Annan’s peace bid in the crisis-torn country.

Syria’s accusations were promptly criticized Friday by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who rejected the allegations that Lebanon had become a center for smuggling fighters and weapons into its neighbor, adding that “violations” were also taking place from the Syrian side of the border.

Lebanon’s Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, members in the March 14 coalition, also blasted Jaafari’s letter Saturday, through which it said Syria was trying to export its months-long crisis into Lebanon by “sparking conflicts, triggering troubles in more than one area and altering apparent facts in an attempt to extinguish the [Syrian] people’s revolution.”

“These slanders reflect the crisis that the regime finds itself in its confrontation with [the Syrian] people and it is an attempt to export the crisis to Lebanese areas through which it can pressure the international community and distract it from what is occurring inside Syria,” the group said in a statement.

It also said the letter was an attempt to tarnish the work of charitable organizations helping Syrians who fled unrest in their country.

In his letter to Ban, Jaafari accused charities run by Lebanese Salafists and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement of providing safe havens “to terrorists in Lebanon.”

Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya said this move was aimed at encircling the refugees, “transforming their lives into a nightmare.”

The group praised Mikati on his criticism of Jaafari’s statement but called on him and his government to take a clear stance that confirms “Lebanon’s sovereignty … and to set the record straight so that Lebanese citizens will not remain [targeted] by accusations.”

Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra described Jaafari’s letter as part of a conspiracy targeting Lebanon and said the saying “forgive them for they know not what they do no longer is useful with the allies of this regime.”

Independent MP Butros Harb said the letter was aimed at distracting the international community from events in Syria.

He also said the March 14 movement would, on the basis of a democratic and moral standpoint, continue to support Syrians seeking freedom and democracy in the face of the “tyrannical and murderous regime.”

“We reject however direct interference in the current struggle occurring in Syria between the Syrian people and the regime, particularly military intervention, and this is a position we will not turn away from,” he added.  

Harb said the letter required Lebanese in general and officials in particular to be cautious about the “new scheme that aims to sow discord in Lebanon that can lead to an explosion at the security level.”

Harb also praised Mikati on his response to Jaafari.





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