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Mikati: Lebanon cannot tolerate further Syrian border aggression

March 14 members have urged Sleiman to prevent Syrian attempts to destabilize Lebanon.

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati Wednesday described accusations by Damascus that Lebanon was transfering arms to Syrian rebels as “unfortunate,” while March 14 urged President Michel Sleiman to act swiftly to protect his country from Syria’s attempts to destabilize it.

Responding to claims by Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are funneling arms to Syrian rebels via Lebanon, Mikati said that Lebanese authorities are doing what they can to stop arms shipments.

“It is regrettable that anyone can use Lebanon as a tool to threaten [others] ... This is an unfair statement,” he said, pointing to the May interception of a ship carrying weapons to Syria and the fact that some other consignments were seized at the Beirut airport.

In an interview with Reuters, Mikati said Lebanon is still committed to its policy of disassociation from the Syrian crisis, but warned that the country cannot tolerate further aggression at the border.

The interview came just two days after Mikati requested that Lebanon’s ambassador to Syria articulate the government’s frustration with the Syrian army’s continued shelling of Lebanese border towns.

“We have kept out of interfering in Syria, but we cannot turn a blind eye to any act being committed against Lebanon – or to the crisis being imported,” Mikati said.

Relations between Damascus and Beirut have deteriorated significantly since Lebanon charged former Information Minister Michel Samaha, along with two Syrian officials, of planning terrorist attacks intended to destabilize the country.

Sleiman has called for Assad to explain any Syrian involvement in the terror plots, but Damascus is yet to respond officially.

Mikati added that Lebanese citizens need to unite to prevent the unrest in Syria from spreading into their country. “I hope that we remain capable of preventing the fighting and the crisis spilling over into Lebanon.

“This cannot happen without the unity of the Lebanese.

“If this crisis reaches Lebanon, there will be danger for all Lebanese,” he said.

“Nobody should now be thinking of benefiting ... We are all in one boat and if it takes on water in this ferocious storm sweeping the region we will all drown,” Mikati added.

Meanwhile, the March 14 coalition warned Wednesday that the country is on the verge of an economic, political and security breakdown.

Following a four-hour meeting at Maarab – the residence of Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea – the coordinator of the coalition’s general secretariat, Fares Soueid, called on Sleiman and all Lebanese to confront what he called “the dangerous period the country is facing.”

Soueid also said that March 14 officials were in agreement that there are three major dangers facing Lebanon that the opposition must unite against.

“The Syrian regime insists on destroying the security and stability of Lebanon – especially in the north [Tripoli] – through a series of assassinations [they intend to carry out] and other security plots that serve the interests of the Syrian regime.”

Soueid criticized Hezbollah for obstructing the establishment of a national defense strategy and for hijacking the country’s power to make security decisions.

“Iran’s allies in Lebanon insist on rejecting the rule of the state and its sovereignty by hijacking the decisions of war and peace and exposing the country to regional and international conflicts that will lead to its complete destruction,” Soueid said. “The Lebanese economy now faces the danger of bankruptcy in all of its sectors as a result of the deliberate policies [adopted by the government].”

“All of these dangers are hastening the collapse of the state and its institutions,” he added.

The coalition announced that it will hold regular consultative meetings in the coming weeks to bring together all political organizations in support of the principles of the “Cedar Revolution.”

“The meetings will focus on bringing together all the elements of the coalition and prepare for the post-Assad era and next year’s elections,” the sources said in reference to the embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But Wednesday’s meeting took place without the Kataeb (Phalange) Party, a key March 14 member. Although Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel took part, Kataeb Party sources said the party does not participate in meetings organized by the coalition’s general secretariat because it objects to its organization and structure.

“We have long called for reforms, and it’s been at least two years since we’ve stopped participating in meetings called by the general secretariat,” the source said. “Mr. Gemayel attended the meeting in his personal capacity and did not represent the party.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 06, 2012, on page 1.

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