BEIRUT: Head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea defended his party Wednesday against accusations of inciting inter-Muslim strife, arguing that Hezbollah’s actions are stirring Sunni-Shiite tension in the country.
“The one working to spark Sunni-Shiite strife is the one who stood by the side of Syrian regime in 2005 when the majority of Sunnis was accusing the regime of killing their historic leader [former Prime Minister] Rafik Hariri,” Geagea told a news conference at his Maarab residence.
“The one working to spark Sunni-Shiite strife is the one who toppled by force the Cabinet of Saad Hariri, which represented the majority of Sunnis,” he added.
Referring to the LF, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah accused Monday some Christian parties of the March 14 alliance of inciting inter-Muslim conflict, warning that such behavior would “blow up the country.”
Geagea said the cause of sectarian tensions between the two major Muslim sects in the country was due to Hezbollah’s behavior, including the fact that four members of the party were named in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s indictment in 2011. The STL was established by the U.N. to try the Hariri’s assassins.
Geagea also fended off Hezbollah’s allegations that his party was working for the interest of Israel.
In his speech Monday, Nasrallah, without naming Geagea directly, accused the LF of collaborating with Israel during Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War and of being involved in several crimes during the conflict:
“It hurts us when we, those who were killed and sacrificed their lives and the lives of their families ... are given lessons in patriotism by those who worked with Israel in 1982, shed blood and worked as spies for Israel.”
“I don’t conceal that during the war, we bought arms and vehicles from Israel but I stopped commercial trade with Israel before the end of the [Civil] War,” Geagea said.
“The real collaborator is he who receives training and money from a foreign state in days of peace ... and not those who bought arms from another state during war,” Geagea said.
The LF leader said that most collaborators with Israel discovered by Lebanese authorities recently were from Hezbollah. “None of the arrested collaborators are from the Lebanese Forces.”
“One of the senior officials of your major ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, is Fayez Karam. He was convicted of collaborating with Israel in days of peace rather than war,” Geagea said, addressing Nasrallah. “What is your stance? Particularly as he was tried by judges that you trust.”
Geagea slammed the Hezbollah leader for questioning his party’s patriotism and accused Syria, Hezbollah’s ally, of fabricating war crimes against the LF with the aim of dissolving the party and imprisoning him in 1994.
The LF leader then detailed a list of alleged crimes committed by the resistance group since its formation in 1982, including blowing up the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, the U.S. marines barracks in Beirut and the assassination of senior officials in leftist parties.
“Did you leave any Communist leader alive so that he could take part in Dialogue? Hezbollah killed around 19 Communist leaders.”
Commenting on the March 14 coalition’s conditions to re-join National Dialogue sessions, Nasrallah said in his speech that his party has its conditions as well, saying that the Lebanese Communist Party and the Popular Nasserite Organizations that resisted Israeli occupation of Lebanon should take part in talks on a national defense strategy.
Turning to the resistance’s recent drone operation over Israel, Geagea accused Hezbollah of jeopardizing Lebanese security by launching the unmanned aircraft, questioning motives behind the operation.
“Shouldn’t you have provided the pictures [captured by the drone] to the Lebanese Army rather than giving them to Iran which has satellites?” he asked, adding that all this information could be found on Google Earth.
A senior Iranian lawmaker said last month that the Islamic Republic has images of sensitive Israeli military bases taken by Hezbollah’s drone. On Monday, Nasrallah, a close ally of Iran, described the drone flight as part of “a comprehensive deterrence strategy.”
“You do not care if the country heads to a disaster; all that you care about is what you are asked to do in the regional game you are involved in,” the LF leader said.
Geagea also reiterated his party’s intention to form a one-party government should the March 14 coalition win the majority of seats in the 2013 parliamentary polls.
“Yes, we do not want a national unity government because we know you do not seek to build a country,” he said.
Geagea said that his group was the first to launch resistance. “We were the first people to resist when we resisted this regime that is doing all these atrocities to its people,” he said in reference to the Syrian regime.
Geagea also accused Nasrallah of being out of touch: “I don’t know how often Nasrallah is getting in touch with people; the Cabinet is paralyzed and the economy is deteriorating.”
Hitting back at Geagea, Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement accused the LF leader of trying to erase people’s memory of his crimes.
“Samir Geagea, your history is well-known and all your crimes are documented ... but it seems that the criminal who confessed to committing his crimes in the past, wants not only to deny them now, but tries to destroy the memory of people,” he said.
“Rather than regretting his numerous crimes, Samir Geagea accuses the honorable people in the country [of committing crimes],” said the statement.
The March 14 General Secretariat condemned Nasrallah’s remarks, saying they reflect arrogance and serve interests of foreign states.
“Who incites strife other than he who ... curses martyrs, takes over the state with the force of arms and terrorism, engages in corruption and interferes militarily in Syrian affairs to defend the regime of arrogance and dictatorial oppression?”