BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Lebanon should strip Hezbollah and other groups of weapons used at the domestic level but stressed that arms used in the conflict with Israel should come under his defense strategy.
“Resistance arms fall under the defense strategy that is being worked out at the National Dialogue and are to be used only to defend Lebanon against Israeli aggression and only to support the Lebanese Army in line with a political decision,” Sleiman said in Argentina Thursday.
“While arms that are being used domestically [in internal conflicts] are forbidden. Be they with Hezbollah or the Salafists or others, they [weapons] must be stripped,” Sleiman added.
His remarks were made during a wide-ranging chat with Argentine media outlets at Sheraton Park Tower Hotel in Buenos Aires.
“Lebanon is working toward [disarmament], but we have not yet accomplished this. This issue – pulling out weapons spread across the country – is on the Dialogue table. The first phase will be to freeze the use of arms as a prelude to disarmament,” Sleiman said, according to a statement from his press office.
In June, Sleiman relaunched the stalled National Dialogue and rival politicians have so far attended four sessions to resolve the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons. In September, Sleiman put forward his national defense strategy which he says would place Hezbollah’s arms under the command of the Lebanese Army to defend the country against Israeli aggression.
In the Argentine capital, Sleiman also spoke on Syria and said there were no armed groups operating from Lebanon against its neighbor.
He said that the Lebanese military would not give up in its mission to prevent arms smuggling from Lebanon to Syria, adding that “it is also required from Syria to prevent sending weapons to Lebanon or cut trees or blow up houses near the border as well as avoid entering Lebanese territory.”
He also renewed his outright opposition to any military intervention in Syria.
“If there is a solution that requires sending Arab troops, this [should] be in agreement with the Syrians themselves,” Sleiman said.
“Lebanon can contribute to a political solution and if this solution needed Arab assistance, this is possible,” he added.
On Israel, Sleiman denied Lebanon’s intention to attack the Jewish state and held it responsible for any aggression against the country.
Before heading to Uruguay as part of his Latin American tour, Sleiman attended a reception held in his honor by Lebanon’s Ambassador to Argentina Hisham Hamdan.
“There are no fears over Lebanon which defeated Israel and terrorism,” Sleiman assured members of the Lebanese community who attended the event.
“Lebanon’s future is much better than it’s past,” he added.
Sleiman also praised democracy in Lebanon.
“Our democratic system is the best in the world,” Sleiman stressed.
“What is going on [in the Middle East] is proof to everybody that Lebanon is a paradigm of a new multi-world shaped by globalization and scientific development.”