BEIRUT: Lebanon’s dissociation policy toward developments in Syria is “shameful” and exposes the country to aggression by its neighbor, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in an interview to a pan-Arab newspaper published Saturday.
“The official Lebanese [dissociation] stance regarding these issues is shameful and should not continue,” Hariri told Al-Hayat, newspaper.
The opposition leader said not having a position toward the developments in Syria, where unrest has claimed the lives of thens of thousands since March of 2011, did not serve Lebanon’s interest.
“Some say that self-distancing is in Lebanon’s interest but not having a position is not in the interest of protecting Lebanon,” Hariri said.
“Protecting Lebanon is [achieved] by preventing the Syrian regime from interfering in Lebanese affairs and exposing Lebanese territories and citizens to military actions carried out by the Syrian forces in Akkar and the Bekaa,” Hariri added, referring to incidents along the border between the two countries.
Hariri said the country’s dissociation policy, which it adopted soon after the widespread violence took hold of its neighbor, left the country exposed to aggression by Damascus.
“The self-distancing policy allows the Syrian regime to shell the Lebanese villages,” said Hariri, who praised President Michel Sleiman for his stance on the issue which he described as “advanced” compared to the “ambiguous positions of the government.”
Hariri, the head of the March 14 coalition, said one means of responding to violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty would be for Lebanon to bring the matter up with the Security Council, expel the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon and “protect our borders with all possible means including the call for the deployment of international forces along the northern and eastern borders.”
In a memo to Sleiman last week, the March 14 alliance called for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers along the northern border with Syria in response to Damascus’ repeated violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Hariri, one of President Bashar Assad’s staunchest critics in Lebanon, also told Al-Hayat that the fall of the Syrian regime would shed new light into the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in 2005.
“Look at what happened in Libya. Many things emerged after the fall of the regime, in terms of aircraft bombings like the Lockerbie case or the case of Imam Musa Sadr. These things were impossible to reach and now they are public,” Hariri said.
Imam Musa Sadr, an influential figure in Lebanese politics and founder of the Amal movement, his companions Sheikh Mohammad Yaacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine went missing in Libya on Aug. 31, 1978, on an official visit at the invitation of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Probes into the Sadr case were at a standstill under Gadhafi’s reign but have gained momentum following his fall.
Hariri said as in the case of Libya, “the fall of the Syrian regime will reveal who assassinated Rafik Hariri and what was the role of this murderous regime, which, we have always said, is linked somewhere to the assassination of Rafik Hariri, and this will be revealed.”
Hariri was a five-time prime minister who was killed in a car bomb explosion on Feb. 14, 2005 as his convoy drove along the coast of the capital. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, established in 2007 to try those behind the assassination, indicted in 2011 four members of Hezbollah in the case. The resistance group denies it played any role in the killing.
The younger Hariri, who has resided outside Lebanon since his Cabinet was brought to a premature end following the resignation of Hezbollah-backed March 8 ministers in early 2011, told the paper that his recent meeting in Paris with Progressive Socialist Party head MP Walid Jumblatt did not touch on the topic of the present government.
“The relationship with Walid Jumblatt is a relationship of friendship, brotherhood and political convergence,” Hariri said, adding that the two recognized Lebanon was going through a difficult period.
Jumblatt, who is represented in the present government through three ministers, is one of Assad’s fiercest critics in Lebanon and has in statements hinted at a departure from the broad alliance with the March 8 coalition over the recently government-adopted electoral law based on proportional representation and differences with Hezbollah over Syria.
Hariri said the two shared similar views on the Syria crisis and described the draft electoral law as “bad,” accusing his political rivals of seeking to “go back to the experience of the 2000 electoral law which was prepared against Rafik Hariri.”
“We [Jumblatt and I] both agree that the law is bad and the stance of March 14 regarding the constituencies is clear. We, the March 14 forces, will agree among us to have a unified stance on this issue,” he added.