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LF bars Aoun from visiting Jbeil church

Aoun is welcomed in Jbeil’s mountainous village of Aqoura.

BEIRUT: MP Michel Aoun’s tour to the northern district of Jbeil was marred by a minor security incident Sunday when supporters of the Lebanese Forces prevented him from visiting a church in the village of Mayfouq where LF’s Civil War martyrs are buried.

The Free Patriotic Movement leader began a two-day tour of Jbeil Saturday as part of preparations for the 2013 parliamentary elections.

One stop on Aoun’s trip was a visit to Sayidat Ilij Church in Mayfouq, where a Mass was held for the souls of the “Lebanese Resistance Martyrs.” This refers to LF militiamen killed during the 1975-90 Civil War.

Some LF militiamen were also killed by Aoun’s self-declared war on the LF militia in 1990, when Aoun was the commander of the Army. The dead LF militiamen were buried in a cemetery near the church and Aoun was supposed to lay a wreath at their tombs.

Mayfouq, whose residents and relatives of the martyrs are mostly LF supporters, opposed Aoun’s visit to the tombs of the “Lebanese Resistance Martyrs,” calling it “a provocation.”

Amid heavy deployment by security forces in rainy weather in Mayfouq, the residents and relatives of the LF martyrs formed “a large human shield” at the church’s entrance to prevent Aoun from entering the church and visiting the tombs.

“We oppose Aoun’s visit because it will desecrate the martyrs’ tombs and is a provocation,” a relative of one of the LF martyrs said.

A minor incident occurred when LF supporters shouted slogans against Aoun’s visit as his convoy reached Mayfouq’s square, prompting the FPM leader’s bodyguards to go on alert and brandish their rifles. The state-run National News Agency said that security forces intervened to resolve the problem and clear the way for Aoun’s convoy to proceed to the town of Bijjeh.

After being barred from visiting Sayidat Ilij Church, Aoun, speaking in Mayfouq’s garden, said: “A martyr is not the property of anyone; he is for all the country.”

During his visit to the town of Lahfed, Aoun said: “We will not talk about the slogans raised in Ilij. We want our visit to take place amid love and brotherhood. We have written history with the true blood that defended Lebanon’s territory.”

Aoun began his visit to Jbeil touring the villages of Bir al-Heet, Qartaba, Aqoura and Ihmej.

The FPM leader said that reform was necessary in government to change his rivals’ previous financial policies and said his alliance with Hezbollah has resulted in stability.

He also spoke about the crisis in Syria, warning against extremist groups in Lebanon. “We fear the fall of Syria because in that case, extremism would be strengthened, especially as it has infiltrated north Lebanon.”

The FPM leader, who supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said: “What is happening in Syria will actually affect us in Lebanon.”

He scoffed at the theory held by Western states that the 18-month-old uprising in Syria was over human rights and democracy.

“If these states, which speak about human rights, freedom and democracy, had an iota of concern over these rights in our country, the Palestinians would not have been in our country and they would have given them their natural rights in their land and their identity and they [Palestinians] would have returned to their home country,” Aoun told a ceremony in the village of Ihmej.

Aoun’s trip to Jbeil came a week after he said he escaped an assassination attempt in the southern city of Sidon while returning from a visit to the town of Jezzine the south.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 01, 2012, on page 3.

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