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Future slams Jafari remarks on Guard presence

Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, speaks in a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

BEIRUT: The Future parliamentary bloc strongly denounced Tuesday remarks made by the top commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard in which he said Iran had sent some Guard members to Lebanon and Syria.

In a statement issued after its weekly meeting, the bloc also condemned previous statements by senior Iranian officials threatening that Hezbollah would respond from Lebanon to any Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“These statements and stances, which are denounced and rejected, have unmasked the faces that used to pretend to be patriotic,” the bloc’s statement said.

Referring to Hezbollah’s arms, it said: “The so-called resistance arms are merely Iranian arms whose main mission is to carry out regional functions linked deeply to Iran’s national security and the interests of Iran’s control and the expansion of its influence and protection of its interests.”

“The statements made by officials of the ruling Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Tehran have revealed the truth of all allegations, positions and attitudes,” the bloc said. “The matter has become crystal clear that Hezbollah’s arms are [intended] for non-Lebanese goals and the continued presence [of these arms] threatens to destroy the foundations of the National Covenant and the pillars of common [sectarian] coexistence.”

The bloc’s statement came a day after President Michel Sleiman demanded official clarification from Tehran over remarks made by Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who said Sunday his forces had sent high-level military advisers to Syria and Lebanon.

Sleiman made the request during a meeting Monday with Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, who denied there were military advisers in the country.

Jafari’s comments marked the clearest indication of Iran’s direct assistance to its main Arab allies, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. He told reporters the Guard’s Quds force members have been in Syria and Lebanon as “advisers” for a long time, but did not elaborate.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has also denied that his country had any military presence in the region, particularly in Syria.

Western states and Syrian opposition groups have long suspected Tehran has troops in Syria supporting regime forces against rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad. Iran has denied such accusations. Tehran has supported Assad since a popular uprising against his regime began in March last year.

In an interview with Al-Jadeed TV Tuesday night, Roknabadi again denied there were members of Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon and Syria. He said Jafari’s statement had been misinterpreted.

“There are no members of the Revolutionary Guard in the region,” he said. He added that the statements on Guad’s military advisers in Syria and Lebanon were designed to divert attention away from the ongoing popular protests in Arab and Muslim countries against a U.S.-made film deemed insulting to Islam and the Prophet Mohammad.

In its statement, the Future bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri praised Sleiman’s stance on Jafari’s remarks but at the same time regretted the government’s silence on “this flagrant infringement on national sovereignty.” It urged the Arab League to adopt “a firm stance in the face of Iran’s expansionist design in the region.”

“The Future bloc, like the majority of the Lebanese people, has previously rejected and rejects today that Lebanon be turned into a platform for Iranian missiles for whatever purpose,” the statement said.

Rejecting illegitimate arms, the bloc said: “Sovereignty, strength and legitimacy are the right of the Lebanese state and its legitimate institutions.”

Hezbollah has rejected repeated demands by the Future bloc and its March 14 allies to surrender its weapons to the Lebanese Army. The resistance party has argued that its arms were needed to protect Lebanon against a possible Israeli attack.

Jafari’s statement on the presence of Quds force’s members in Syria and Lebanon has evoked swift negative responses from March 14 politicians, including former President Amin Gemayel, as well as Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.

Commenting on Jafari’s statement, March 14 MP Marwan Hamadeh called for an overwhelming popular movement to put an end to what he termed the “armed Iranian presence” on Lebanese territory.

“In the same way south Lebanon was liberated from Israel in 2000 and all of Lebanon was liberated from the remnants of the Syrian regime in 2005, there should be action now to put an end to the armed Iranian presence on our national soil,” Hamadeh said in a statement.

But Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, a key ally of Hezbollah, dismissed Jafari’s remarks on the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guard members in Lebanon as “media propaganda.”

The remarks “are [intended] to distract the people and make them concentrate on matters that are not among our daily concerns,” Aoun told reporters after chairing a weekly meeting of his parliamentary Change and Reform bloc at his residence in Rabieh, north of Beirut.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 19, 2012, on page 3.

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