BEIRUT: In his first reaction since Hezbollah claimed responsibility for sending a reconnaissance drone over Israel, Prime Minister Najib Mikati hinted Monday that the drone is a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
“We are with the full implementation of 1701 without any violation,” Mikati said after returning from a visit to Qatar. “The government supports President Michel Sleiman’s position on the issue.”
The president has said that the drone incident underscores the need for a national defense strategy that makes use of the resistance’s arms while putting them under the exclusive control of the state.
Earlier Monday, the premier told Lebanese living in the Gulf emirate that Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani acknowledges their role in helping Qatar advance and wishes them to stay in the country.
“I would like to reassure Lebanese living in Qatar that his highness is concerned with providing them with all the means for a safe and stable life in this country, which we consider to be a second home for all Lebanese expats here,” Mikati said.
“I was also told that Qatar is interested in making investments in Lebanon,” he added.
The emir told Mikati that Qatar hopes Lebanon remains safe from repercussions of the crisis in neighboring Syria, said a statement by the premier’s press office.
“I explained to his highness Lebanon’s dissociation policy on Syria and I made it clear that such policy has nothing to do with our position on providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees,” Mikati said.
In a joint news conference, Sheikh Hamad said Lebanon and Qatar are still discussing a possible lift of the Qatari travel ban that was imposed in May as a result of a spate of kidnappings in Lebanon.
“This [travel ban] was not targeted against Lebanon but was related to specific circumstances. We acknowledge the progress the Lebanese have made on the security front, and the issue is now being discussed between the two countries. We hope this will end very soon,” the emir said.
The two leaders signed six pending cooperation agreements and said that a joint meeting of the Lebanese-Qatari supreme committee would be held in Doha early next year.
The prime minister arrived in Qatar Monday for a one-day official visit, accompanied by a Lebanese delegation that included Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, Environment Minister Nazem al-Khoury, Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas and State Minister Ahmad Karami.
Separately, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Monday that he and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri were in agreement on an elections law that would divide Lebanon into 50 electoral districts as part of a strategy for the 2013 polls.
During a news conference at his residence in Maarab, the LF leader also slammed Hezbollah over its recent operation using a drone to penetrate Israeli airspace.
“I agreed with Hariri during my Jeddah visit on a complete vision regarding the coming elections, on the basis of the 50-district electoral law.”
The LF leader also stressed the need for the parliamentary elections to be held on time. “The Parliament should endorse a new electoral law by the end of the year, and we will not accept postponing the elections under any circumstances,” he said.
The March 14 coalition has put forward an elections law that would divide the country into 50 districts under a winner-takes-all system.
Turning to his rivals in the March 8 coalition, Geagea held Hezbollah responsible for any possible repercussions from the group’s recent Ayoub drone operation into Israel.
“The country still hasn’t healed from the wounds of the 2006 July war, and Hezbollah will be blamed for any losses the country might suffer due to sending the drone over Israel,” he said.
Last week, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed that his group managed to breach Israeli airspace using an Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle that was later shot down by the Jewish state.
Geagea said the drone operation, codenamed Ayoub, represented a direct Iranian message to Israel and the West.
“Making such dangerous decisions should be the responsibility of the state, not the responsibility of any party,” Geagea said. For his part, Sunni Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani described the Ayoub operation as “excellent and strategic,” but said it should ideally take place under the patronage of the Lebanese state.
Hezbollah MP Nawwaf al-Mousawi, meanwhile, criticized former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s position on the drone and accused him of providing Israel a pretext to attack Lebanon by describing the operation as a “provocation” and a “declaration of war.”
Separately, March 14 MP Butros Harb urged Lebanese expatriates to come home to vote in parliamentary elections to make changes that will shock the Hezbollah-led coalition, the National News Agency reported Monday.
“We [March 14 coalition] will continue to put pressure so that that you can participate in the elections wherever you are,” Harb said.