BEIRUT: The eighth anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will be marked Thursday at a rally in Beirut in the absence of key March 14 leaders.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri will appear on a huge screen via a video link to deliver the keynote speech, in which he is expected to touch on the June elections, the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Hezbollah’s arms and the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea will not attend the rally, to be held at the BIEL complex, for security reasons, the Central News Agency said. It quoted sources as saying Kataeb Party leader, ex-President Amin Gemayel, was also not expected to attend.
The Future Movement will also hold a gathering at Hariri’s tomb in Martyrs Square in Beirut in a show of respect for the late leader, who was killed in a massive suicide bombing in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.
The March 14 coalition’s speech at BIEL will be delivered by Fares Soueid, coordinator of the March 14 Secretariat General.
In a televised speech on the occasion, Hariri’s widow, Nazek Hariri, stressed that the rise of the Lebanese state and its sovereignty cannot be attained except through dialogue and the protection of the STL.
“We are today on the threshold of a new era of changes which are taking place in our region and the world as a whole. All of us want Lebanon ... to pursue its successful experiment in reconstruction and development it achieved under the leadership of [former] Prime Minister martyr Rafik Hariri with the cooperation of its people and their sacrifices,” she said.
“Let’s benefit from the secret of our success and strengthen the substance of life in our country. The rise of the state and sovereignty can be achieved only through dialogue, debate, study and development of visions, cooperation and coexistence and protection of the international tribunal,” she added. “Let’s build for our beloved people a free, sovereign and independent country in Lebanon.”
In a televised speech on the occasion, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the Future parliamentary bloc, demanded that the June parliamentary elections be held on time. He said the polls should be an occasion to bring about change in Lebanon by removing Hezbollah and its March 8 allies from the government, blaming them for the deterioration of the country’s economic and security conditions.
Geagea said the March 14 coalition would continue its struggle to achieve its declared goals of freedom, sovereignty and independence. Commenting on the eighth anniversary of Hariri’s assassination, Geagea said in an interview with Future TV: “This anniversary has become an historic landmark in Lebanon and led to a major political development with the withdrawal of Syrian forces and the beginning of the Arab Spring, starting from the Beirut Spring.” Geagea acknowledged differences within the March 14 coalition over a new electoral law after the LF and the Kataeb Party supported the Orthodox Gathering’s proposal, which calls for every sect to elect its own lawmakers under a system of proportional representation with Lebanon as a single district.
Hariri and some independent March 14 Christian MPs have rejected the Orthodox plan, which was also opposed by President Michel Sleiman.