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Hariri says Hezbollah sending fighters to Syria

Hollande greets Hariri prior to a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace.

BEIRUT: Former premier Saad Hariri urged Hezbollah to stop “sending arms or fighters to Syria,” after talks with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris Wednesday.

“Hezbollah is playing an immature role vis-à-vis the Syrian revolution and we will not accept Lebanese to fight alongside the criminal regime,” he said.

“Hezbollah must stop sending arms or fighters to Syria. It is free to take a political position but killing the Syrian people is a crime,” he added.

Hariri discussed with Hollande France’s support for the Syrian people, and said the president was making a big effort in that regard.

The former premier praised France’s support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is looking into the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In an interview with France’s Le Monde newspaper earlier Wednesday, Hariri said the regime in Syria would definitely fall, but that the international community must do more to arm the opposition to help end the bloodshed.

Hariri also accused Hezbollah of sending its members to fight in Syria. Hezbollah has denied this charge.

The former premier voiced his belief that civil war contagion would not reach Lebanon, as there was no desire for it.

“The current regime in Syria is certainly going to fall,” Hariri told Le Monde, adding that he was convinced of this as the regime was increasingly ceding ground to the rebels, and has had to resort to bombing cities from the air.

“Do not be fooled by the regime. The Syrian people are winning,” he said.

“But what is important is preventing [the regime] from carrying out genocide against the [Syrian] people ... we wish that less blood would be spilled.”

According to Hariri, the longer it takes Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, the more damage will be caused, making reconciliation that much more difficult. “This is where the international community has a moral obligation to intervene,” he said.

Hariri maintained that a diplomatic approach to the unrest in Syria had not borne fruit. “There should be some kind of intervention,” he said. “There is a balance of power between the government and the opposition, while the latter has no sophisticated weapons.”

He also slammed Hezbollah, accusing it of sending Lebanese fighters to Syria to fight alongside regime forces.

“Hezbollah is implicated in every way in the fighting in Syria,” he said. “Even if they deny it, I think they are sending Lebanese to Syria.”

However, he refuted claims that March 14 has been assisting the rebels.

On the possibility that sectarian conflict would spread to Lebanon, Hariri said that while this was something the Syrian regime was actively encouraging, they would not succeed.

“I do not fear a civil war in Lebanon because no Lebanese party wants it. The more the Syrian regime weakens, the more it will try to take us down with it,” he said, citing the August terrorism charges against former Information Minister Michel Samaha, a close friend of Assad, and the sporadic sectarian violence in the northern city of Tripoli.

“We have seen the Samaha case, which is an act of war,” he said. “If we look in detail at the violence between Sunnis and Alawites ... in Tripoli, we realize it comes either from the allies of the Syrian regime or from its agents directly. The Syrian regime is trying to destabilize Lebanon.”

“But the Lebanese will know how to resist to these provocations.”

Hariri also criticized the government of current Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and his disassociation policy.

“If the Lebanese government’s position was more frank, the Syrian regime would not have allowed itself to bomb the north, as in Wadi Khaled, and there would not have been the Samaha case,” he added during the interview.Recent attacks by the Syrian army against border villages in Lebanon have led to several deaths and injuries, and a plea from March 14 to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to expel the Syrian ambassador to Beirut.

Regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Hariri said that after the fall of the Syrian regime, “many people will talk” and the trial will one day take place.

However, he added, “divine justice may be faster than the justice of men.”

Hariri, who has been living outside Lebanon since April 2011, said that all those who were betting on the collapse of his political career were mistaken.

Citing recent assassination attempts against March 14 politicians Samir Geagea and Boutros Harb, Hariri reiterated that he was out of the country for security reasons but would take part in the 2013 parliamentary polls. “I will participate in the next legislatives elections and I will win them, if the elections are not rigged. All those who bet on the end of my political career are wrong.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 13, 2012, on page 1.

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