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Lebanon's policy toward Syria has limits: Mikati

Prime Minister Najib Mikati. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Monday his government’s policy of disassociation toward events in Syria has limits when Lebanon’s security is at stake.

“The policy of disassociation is with regards to the domestic situation in Syria ... but when there are attempts to destabilize Lebanon from Syria, we will not disassociate ourselves and we will take necessary measures,” Mikati told reporters at the Grand Serail in Beirut.

Mikati said that should evidence surface of attempts to destabilize Lebanon from Syria emerge, Beirut should reconsider its ties to Damascus in a constructive manner.

The prime minister was referring to the case of former Minister Michel Samaha who has been charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in the country and assassinations of religious and political figures.

The accusations are also directed at the head of Syria’s Intelligence Gen. Ali Mamlouk and another Syrian army officer.

As for the March 14 coalition’s demands to expel Syria’s envoy to Lebanon, cancel the “sisterly coordination agreements,” and deploying U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon along the border with Syria to prevent violations, Mikati said now was not the time for such issues.

“We have done the impossible to establish diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria. Is this the time to discuss such a topic? Is the Syrian side capable of discussing this issue under the current circumstances?” he asked.

Mikati also said that even if the opposition were in government, they would have acted in a similar manner.

“If they were in government would they have done what they're demanding? Is it the right time? Is UNIFIL ready to deploy along the border with Syria?” he asked.

Mikati also spoke about arms smuggling into Syria, saying that the Lebanese Army has been deployed along the 550-kilometers border and that the “Syrian army should work to stop the smuggling” as well.

Syria alleges that border clashes are primarily due to attempts to smuggle arms to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s government forces.

During his chat with reporters, Mikati also addressed the Lebanese Army’s ongoing raids in Beirut’s southern suburb – a Hezbollah stronghold, noting that no one is above the law.

“We were waiting for the [right] opportunity for the Army’s mission to be successful and it is doing its job in imposing the authority of the state and securing the release of the kidnapped and no one is above the state,” the prime minister said.

The Army launched Friday night a series of raids in the southern suburbs as part of an operation to free a Turkish businessman and four Syrian nationals who were being held by the Meqdad clan.

The Meqdad clan’s “military wing,” which is based in Beirut’s southern suburb, has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings in retaliation for the abduction by Syrian rebels of a family member, Hassan Meqdad.

“The decision to provide the Army with the government’s cover to do its job was taken before hand but the timing to implement [the security plan] was up to the Army's leadership,” Mikati said.

He added that the government was doing its job, despite obstacles and the March 14 coalition’s repeated demand for its resignation.

Mikati also commented on the recent release of the three officers linked to the case of the May killing of a prominent sheikh that has sparked uproar in northern parts of the country, saying: “The release of the three officers does not mean that the investigation stopped, it is ongoing.”

 

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