Lebanon News

Geagea’s Jeddah trip sparks polls buzz

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea speaks during a ceremony in Byblos, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 10, 2012. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)

BEIRUT/BAALBEK: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea headed for Jeddah Monday amid speculation that the trip is aimed at meeting former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to discuss next year’s parliamentary elections.

While LF sources refused to comment on the purpose of the visit, they said the party was expected to issue a statement on Geagea’s visit in the coming hours.

LF MP Antoine Zahra had met Hariri in Saudi Arabia last week for talks on the parliamentary elections. Lebanese groups are mulling an electoral law ahead of the 2013 polls.

Meanwhile, over 2,000 Hezbollah supporters gathered in the Bekaa Valley to bury one of their fighters, whom a security source said was killed in the border area with Syria, as the party denied Monday any involvement in the assassination of MP Gebran Tueni.

Hezbollah put to rest Hussein Abdel Ghani al-Nimr, 35, who “died while he was performing his jihadist duty,” according to a Hezbollah spokesman from Baalbek.

A security source told AFP that the Hezbollah member had been “killed in the Lebanon-Syria border region and his body was taken back Sunday.”

The funeral comes less than a week after a senior Hezbollah commander, who Syrian rebels said had been killed in Syria, was buried in the Bekaa.

“He was a good man and a good fighter, and he died as a martyr serving his country and fellow Muslims,” Hezbollah’s Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, who heads the party’s religious council, told the crowd.

Hezbollah has announced several similar burials in the past months, without elaborating on the circumstances of its members’ deaths.

Activists in the Syrian province of Homs told AFP that Hezbollah fighters have been taking part alongsidegovernment troops in fighting against rebels in the besieged town of Qusayr near the border with Lebanon. Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara lashed out at Hezbollah for its alleged involvement in the fighting in Syria. “Hezbollah is admitting that it is performing jihadist duties alongside the Assad regime, thus violating the dissociation policy claimed by the government,” he said. “It is our duty as lawmakers to question the government over the issue. Does it approve Hezbollah’s jihad against the Syrian people?”

Earlier, Hezbollah denied any involvement in the assassination of journalist and lawmaker Tueni, days after an Arab television station presented documents allegedly showing that the resistance group had a role in killing the lawmaker.“Hezbollah denies any involvement in the assassination of late MP Gebran Tueni and affirms its condemnation of political assassination,” the group said.

“It awaits the judiciary for its word on the matter after it was proven that those who claim to preserve peace in the country and its people do not demonstrate a minimal degree of responsibility,” it added, in an apparent swipe at March 14 MPs.

Last week, Al-Arabiya television released what it claimed were leaked communiqués between Syrian intelligence and the state’s leadership. In the documents, references were made to Hezbollah and its alleged activities with the Syrian security apparatus.

One of the communiqués – sent from the head of the operations department in Syrian Intelligence Hasan Abdel-Rahman to the head of State Intelligence Assef Shawkat – said an operation, referred to as “mission 213,” had been successfully completed with the help of Hezbollah members.

The Saudi-based channel said this communiqué had been sent on the same day MP and journalist Gebran Tueni was killed in a car bomb on Dec. 12, 2005.

In its statement, Hezbollah slammed members of the March 14 coalition who quickly denounced the resistance party’s alleged role in fighting in Syria and Tueni’s assassination. “March 14’s stance about several issues based on fabricated documents and facts which are not accurate proves day after day that whoever is used to cheating can only excel in fabrications,” Hezbollah added.

“The latest wave of [fabrications] by March 14 is what Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya prepared and claimed were documents it obtained from members of the Syrian opposition, inventing events and fabricating accusations that have nothing to do with reality, including the assassination of late MP Gebran Tueni,” it added.

Another communiqué by Al-Arabiya reported the arrival of 250 Hezbollah fighters in Syria in May 2011. The document – which the station said had been sent to President Bashar Assad from an intelligence officer – said members of the resistance had arrived in May in the Syrian city of Aleppo, had taken rooms at the Ramses Hotel and were awaiting orders from the Syrian leadership.

Earlier Monday, Hezbollah Minister Mohammad Fneish said the Al-Arabiya documents were lies. “The Al-Arabiya documents are lies and not everything that is published is an actual document,” Fneish told reporters before attending a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail.

His comments were echoed by Hezbollah MP Kamel Rifai, who said his party was innocent of the claims or inferences arrived at through the aired documents.

Hezbollah has repeatedly denied being involved in the crisis and has urged that Lebanon maintain its dissociation policy toward events in its neighbor.

The Cabinet, which met at the Grand Serail Monday, passed a number of decrees, focused on administrative reforms, said a statement from premier Mikati’s office.

Information Minister Walid Daouk told reporters after the meeting that Cabinet had not discussed items pertaining to the salary scale despite a labor strike over the issue planned for Wednesday.

Earlier Monday, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly stressed the need for Lebanon to hold the 2013 polls on time and urged political leaders to commit to distancing the country from events escalating in neighboring Syria.

“In my view, it is very important that the elections take place on time. Lebanon is a country with a long democratic history and the present period is one of a spread of democracy across the Arab world. I am confident elections here will take place on time,” Plumbly said after meeting Mikati at the Grand Serail. – with AFP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 09, 2012, on page 1.




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