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Mikati: Dissociation policy null and void when Lebanon targeted

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

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Thursday the policy of dissociating from unrest in neighboring Syria does not apply when Lebanon is the target of aggression.

“There is no dissociation policy when a side carries out an aggression against Lebanon and the Army is aware of the circumstances and can decide whether the aggression took place inside or outside Lebanese territories,” Mikati said. “The Army is in contact with the Syrian army to stop any aggression.”

In remarks to Al-Arabiya TV and Sky News, Mikati said he would not accept that Lebanese territories be used to serve any foreign group, adding that he was concerned that the crisis in Syria would spill over into Lebanon. “We decided to stay away from the Syrian crisis.”

Mikati, in New York heading the Lebanese delegation at the 67th General Assembly session, also said he hadn’t spoken with Assad since he became a prime minister in January 2011.

“As prime minister of Lebanon, my main concern is Lebanon’s unity and safety and that it actually be spared from what is happening in the region,” Mikati said.

Mikati said he supports an initiative to bring different points of view in Syria together for a peaceful solution, rather than Arab intervention. The prime minister is scheduled to deliver a speech at the U.N. Thursday.

Earlier Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande voiced his country’s commitment to Lebanon’s unity and sovereignty during a meeting with Mikati, praising the Lebanese government’s efforts to maintain stability.

Hollande reiterated France’s “commitment to preserve the unity, sovereignty and independence of Lebanon,” noting the difficult period Lebanon was witnessing and praising efforts by Mikati and his Cabinet to preserve stability in Lebanon.

According to Mikati’s press office, France also vowed to continue to support Lebanon, particularly through the French peacekeepers in the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which operates in the south of the country.

For his part, Mikati thanked France for the political effort it was making for the sake of Lebanon as well as its continued support for the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL.

Mikati voiced hope that bilateral relations between Lebanon and France would develop on the economic and commercial levels.

The two officials also agreed to hold a meeting in Paris but did not set a specific date.

Hollande received Mikati in his residence in New York. Attending the meeting was Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Nawaf Salam, the head of Lebanon’s permanent mission to the United Nations.

During his stay in New York, Mikati met a number of international and Arab officials, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom he discussed Lebanese-Palestinian relations, as well as the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Mikati also discussed bilateral relations with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the U.N. headquarters, and met with UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, with whom he spoke about regional issues. The premier had dinner Tuesday evening with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani at his New York residence.

Separately, Mansour chaired a session of the Arab League’s Ministerial Council at the U.N. General Assembly, which discussed Syria’s crisis. Lebanon is currently the Arab League chair.

The session also tackled the Palestinian cause and the situation in Sudan as well as a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.

Attendees also addressed “Innocence of Muslims,” an anti-Islam movie whose trailer sparked outrage and protests across the world earlier this month.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby outlined the outcome of contacts he carried out after he received a request by Mansour to call for an urgent meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss the film. He said he contacted officials from the EU, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the African Union with whom he discussed establishing international laws banning insults to religions.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 27, 2012, on page 1.

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