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Sleiman to present defense strategy at Dialogue
FILE - President Michel Sleiman Meets General Paolo Serra               Wednesday, September 19, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)
FILE - President Michel Sleiman Meets General Paolo Serra Wednesday, September 19, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)
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BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman will present his plans for a national defense strategy to Lebanese leaders during a National Dialogue session Thursday, addressing a topic that has divided Lebanese leaders, a source from Baabda Palace told The Daily Star.

“It is the summary of ideas he got from researchers and university professors along with proposals presented by [party leaders] during previous dialogue sessions,” the source said Wednesday.

“Of course this concept is not ideal but will be subject for discussion,” the source added, refusing to give further details on the proposal to be presented.

Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh will not attend Thursday’s session, which will take place at Baabda Palace. The Zghorta MP has pre-arranged engagements outside Lebanon, former Minister Yousef Saade said, a movement official. Franjieh did not attend the previous Dialogue session held in August either.

The Future Movement and its March 14 allies maintain that any national defense strategy should include Hezbollah’s arms being brought under state control, while the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition argues that an effective strategy to protect the country requires coordination between the Army and the resistance.

National Dialogue sessions were initially launched in March 2006 and then chaired by Sleiman after he was elected to the presidency in May 2008.

After an 18-month-lull in talks, National Dialogue kicked off again in June in a bid to prevent regional turmoil, particularly the uprising against President Bashar Assad in neighboring Syria, from spilling further into Lebanon

Dozens have been killed in a series of clashes in the northern city of Tripoli between supporters and opponents of Assad.

A spate of retaliatory kidnappings took place in August when the Meqdad family abducted Syrians and a Turkish national after a clan member was kidnapped by Syrian rebels.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said earlier this week that he will continue to boycott Dialogue sessions he considers a “waste of time.”

Opposition leader Saad Hariri will be represented by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 20, 2012, on page 3.
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