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GCC complains to Lebanon over Aoun’s comments on Bahrain

FPM leader Michel Aoun speaks during a press conference in Rabieh, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. (The Daily Star/Charbel Nakhoul, HO)

BEIRUT: Gulf states protested Monday what they described as MP Michel Aoun’s “irresponsible remarks” on events in Bahrain, via a letter to the Lebanese Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

According to the Emirates News Agency, Secretary-General of the Gulf Corporations Council Abdel-Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani handed Lebanon’s Ambassador Munir Anouti a letter on behalf of Gulf countries contesting Aoun’s remarks.

“[In the letter] the GCC countries expressed their severe condemnation of the irresponsible remarks that MP Michel Aoun ... made to Al-Alam television on Feb. 12, 2013, when he spoke about the internal situation of the Kingdom of Bahrain in a misleading and harmful manner,” the agency said.

The letter added that the comments of Aoun, Hezbollah’s primary Christian ally in Lebanon, reflected “a vision, interests and ties that have become known to everyone” and contradict the reality in the small kingdom.

Aoun, addressing an Iranian TV station last week, criticized the international community and the Arab League for its lack of support of Bahraini protesters, calling their predicament an “injustice.”

Days after the interview with Aoun, who heads a bloc of 10 ministers in the 30-member Cabinet, Bahrain summoned Lebanon’s charge d’affaires and requested clarification.

In a bid to avoid a row between Lebanon and Bahrain, Prime Minister Najib Mikati phoned his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Sunday to clarify his country’s position.

During the conversation, Mikati underscored that Lebanon would not interfere in Bahrain’s internal affairs and stressed that Aoun’s remarks did not reflect the government’s official stance.

Mikati said Saturday that Lebanon was committed to the “Baabda Declaration,” an agreement among the country’s rival political parties to distance the country from regional and international conflicts in order to avert the negative repercussions of regional tensions and crises.

In its letter, the GCC said the Lebanese lawmaker’s remarks contradicted the “sisterly and historic ties” between Lebanon and the council and “represent narrow interests and personal ambitions that do not serve Lebanon’s interest or the Arab community’s.”

Aoun told a local radio station Saturday that as an MP he had the right to state his opinion, and that his position did not reflect that of the government.

“We in Lebanon have the freedom to express our opinion, particularly as MPs. The government has nothing to do with the issue,” he said.

In the letter, the GCC also stressed the council’s support for the reform program of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, praising his instructions to continue with national dialogue in the Arab country.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2013, on page 4.

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