Lebanon News

Siniora lobbies Hezbollah to stay out of Syria

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora talks to reporters in Sidon, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora appealed to President Michel Sleiman and top Shiite political and religious leaders Wednesday to intercede with Hezbollah over the party’s alleged involvement in the unrest in Syria.

Siniora warned that the party’s military involvement and participation in the fighting against anti-regime rebels in Syria would threaten Lebanon’s sectarian coexistence, expose the country to “unforeseeable dangers” and cause unprecedented strife in the Arab world.

The Daily Star’s attempts to reach Hezbollah MPs for comment on Siniora’s warning were unsuccessful.

A Hezbollah official also refused to comment on Siniora’s statement, saying that the party’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah would talk about local and regional issues on Al-Manar television Thursday night.

Siniora, head of the parliamentary Future bloc, phoned Sleiman, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, vice-president of the Higher Shiite Council, and other Shiite figures, urging them to talk Hezbollah into distancing itself from the 19-month-old bloody conflict in Syria, the state-run National News Agency reported.

In his phone conversations with Sleiman, Berri and other figures he called, Siniora underlined the “gravity of Hezbollah’s involvement in the ongoing military conflict in Syria and its support for one group against the other under the title of ‘jihadist duty.’”

“This [Hezbollah’s] military involvement and participation in the fighting under any slogan would expose Lebanon to unforeseeable dangers which it cannot bear and would threaten [sectarian] coexistence in Lebanon as well as the Muslims and the Arabs with unprecedented strife,” the former premier said in his appeal, according to NNA.

He called on Sleiman, Berri and Qabalan “to launch initiatives or take stands urging Hezbollah to halt its slide toward the armed conflict in Syria.”

“Based on the Lebanese Christian-Muslim partnership and the Muslim-Muslim partnership, I call on you to act together in order for Hezbollah to halt this slide and involvement [in the Syrian conflict] as well as involving Lebanon, the Arabs and Muslims in this conflict,” the former prime minister said in his appeal.

He added that there were wise leaders within Hezbollah and the Shiite community who reject the party’s drift toward military involvement in the fighting in Syria.

“Therefore, this slide [into the Syrian conflict] should be stopped. Let the Syrian people handle their own problems by themselves,” Siniora said.

Syrian opposition forces have repeatedly accused Hezbollah of supporting the regime’s forces in their crackdown against rebels.

According to rebels, members of Hezbollah have died in clashes in Syria before being returned to Lebanon for burial.

The party, however, has denied such accusations.

Hezbollah has said funerals were held recently for party elements who were killed while performing “jihadist duty,” but has not said how or where they died.

In an apparent response to Siniora’s remarks, Baalbek lawmaker Walid Sukariyeh, a member of Hezbollah’s bloc in Parliament, categorically denied reports that members of the party had been participating in the fighting in Syria.

“These reports are entirely untrue because the number of the Syrian army is around half-a-million. Therefore, Syria does not need 5,000 members from Hezbollah to help it in the ongoing fighting there,” Sukariyeh said in an interview with Elnashra website.

He accused the opposition March 14 parties of linking Hezbollah to the accusation of intervention in Syria.

“These parties are sending arms and fighters to Syria,” he claimed.

Hezbollah officials have accused the March 14 parties, which support the uprising against the Assad regime, of sending money and arms to anti-regime rebels.

Siniora’s warning came as Syrian rebels have threatened to take the fight to Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs unless the party ends its support for the Assad regime.

“We [vow] to take the battle in Syria to the heart of the [Beirut] southern suburbs if [Hezbollah] does not stop supporting the killer-Syrian regime,” Free Syrian Army spokesman Fahd al-Masri told media outlets Tuesday. He said the FSA was holding 13 Hezbollah members in a village near Homs for their involvement in the Syria conflict.

Masri stressed that Hezbollah had been “deeply involved” in the fighting in Syria and said that the fate of the 13 detained men was “in the hands of [FSA] field commanders.”

In his appeal, Siniora condemned threats by Syrian rebels to target the southern suburbs in response to Hezbollah’s alleged participation in the fighting in Syria. The Syrian threats were also condemned by the Future bloc Tuesday.

Responding to Masri’s threats, Sukariyeh said: “First, we have to decide who runs this army [FSA] because there are 200 commands for this army in Syria. Second, we stress that anyone who threatens to take the battle to the [southern] suburbs and consequently incite sectarian strife is an agent of the Israeli Mossad.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 11, 2012, on page 3.




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