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March 14 calls for Hezbollah retreat from Syria
Lebanon's former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora speaks during a meeting between Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (R) and members of "March 14" coalition at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, June 18, 2013. (REUTERS/Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters)
Lebanon's former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora speaks during a meeting between Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (R) and members of "March 14" coalition at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, June 18, 2013. (REUTERS/Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters)
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BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition called Tuesday for an immediate withdrawal of Hezbollah from the fighting in Syria and the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the tense border to prevent recurrent attacks on Lebanon.

In a memorandum delivered to President Michel Sleiman, the coalition also called for the formation of a “neutral” government to prevent the collapse of the state and halt Lebanon’s drift into the abyss.

A delegation of 57 March 14 lawmakers headed by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora visited Sleiman at Baabda Palace to hand him the memo that mainly warns of the consequences of Hezbollah’s heavy involvement in the 27-month-old civil war in Syria on Lebanon’s fragile security and stability.

After receiving the memo, Sleiman underlined the importance of national reconciliation and dialogue among the rival factions for Lebanon to be able to overcome the challenges it is facing, the state-run National News Agency said.

“We demand an immediate and full withdrawal of Hezbollah from the fighting and the termination of its military presence in Syria as a prelude to tackling the dilemma of its arms in Lebanon,” said the memo, which was read to reporters by Siniora, head of the Future parliamentary bloc, during a news conference in Parliament.

It said Hezbollah’s arsenal of missiles supplied by Iran and Syria had made the party stronger than the state.

The memo added that Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria alongside government troops against Syrian rebels constituted “a violation of the Constitution, the law and the Lebanese state’s sovereignty, in addition to breaching the Arab and international charters.”

With its military intervention in Syria, the memo said, “Hezbollah is serving the Syrian and Iranian regimes at the expense of Lebanon.”

The memo also called for the deployment of the Lebanese Army with assistance from the U.N. troops along the poorly demarcated northern and eastern borders with Syria in order to control the border crossings between the two neighbors.

The memo, the second of its kind by the March 14 parties since the uprising erupted in Syria in March 2011, comes amid mounting tensions in Lebanon as a result of Lebanese divisions over the war raging next door.

It also comes following a series of bloody clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tripoli and Sidon, as well as rocket attacks from Syrian territory targeting Bekaa Valley towns near the border with Syria.

“Our previous complaint and suggestions focused on two key issues: The first is the Syrian regime’s violations, which are frequent and go without any response, to our borders, sovereignty and security,” the memo said.

It said that the Syrian regime aimed at expanding its war against the Syrian people to Lebanon in line with its declared threat to “spread the chaos in region.”

“The second issue is the dilemma of the illegitimate arms of Hezbollah, which has established for itself a state, a military and security authority that is stronger than the state authority, and extended its domination and sway over many state institutions and [the state’s] sovereign decision,” the memo said.

It urged Sleiman to launch an initiative to stop the “quick collapse” of the state and give the Lebanese hope.

The memo called on Sleiman to use his wisdom and prerogatives to save Lebanon and work to facilitate Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s mission to form “a homogeneous government that adopts a policy of neutrality and bias toward the country’s supreme national interest” in order to stop the collapse of the state and prevent the country’s descent into the abyss.

Referring to Hezbollah’s alliance with Iran and Syria, the memo said: “Hezbollah has established external military and strategic alliances in such a way that contradicts the state’s sovereignty and security and its constitutional institutions.”

The memo blamed Hezbollah, which has armed allies in the north and the south, for the proliferation of arms and gunmen in various Lebanese areas.

Hezbollah’s military role in Syria has drawn local and international condemnation amid warnings that the party’s involvement in the Syrian fighting was dragging Lebanon into the abyss.

Hezbollah helped Assad’s forces retake the Syrian border town of Qusair from rebels this month. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowed last week to continue fighting alongside Assad’s troops, stressing that his party’s decision to intervene in the Syria war had been a calculated one.In September 2012, the March 14 alliance handed Sleiman a petition calling for the deployment of U.N. troops along the northern border with Syria in response to Damascus’ repeated violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and for the expulsion of the Syrian ambassador to Beirut.

Future MP Ammar Houri told a local radio station that a copy of the memo would be sent to the General Secretariat of the Arab League and the United Nations.

March 14 MP Butros Harb said Sleiman was responsive to the contents of the memo. “The president considered that our objective is to protect sovereignty,” Harb said.

Siniora told reporters that the March 14 coalition, which supports the uprising in Syria, would keep up efforts to confront Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

“This is our second memo and we will keep on calling for ending Hezbollah’s military presence in Syria ... carrying on with mistakes will not make it right and it is unacceptable for Hezbollah to involve Lebanon in the crisis of a neighboring country,” Siniora said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 19, 2013, on page 1.
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