BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour came under fire at home Wednesday for urging the Arab League at a meeting in Egypt to reinstate Syria as a member of the regional organization.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Beirut was committed to its dissociation policy toward developments in Syria, in a statement that suggested Mansour had acted alone and without the unanimous approval of the Lebanese Cabinet.
“The Lebanese government is still committed to the policy of disassociation from events in Syria and this is the same stance it took when the decision to suspend Syria’s membership was issued by the Arab League," Mikati said, referring to the position the Cabinet took soon after the start of the Syria uprising.
The Lebanese prime minister added that his government’s policy of dissociation was still in effect on the basis of the so-called "Baabda Declaration" that rival Lebanese leaders agreed to during a National Dialogue session in 2012.
During a meeting in Cairo, Mansour called on the Arab League to reinstate Syria as a member of the organization in order to help find a political solution to the crisis in Lebanon’s neighbor.
"I call for Syria's membership of the Arab League to be unblocked," Mansour told a League ministerial meeting in the Egyptian capital, reported Reuters news agency.
"Communication with Syria ... is essential for a political solution," he said.
Syria’s status as an Arab League member was suspended in November 2011. Lebanon was among three countries to vote against the Arab decision.
Mansour also criticized the Arab body, saying the bloodshed in Syria continued despite meetings of the top regional organization.
"We have held meetings over two years and taken decision after decision thinking that with them we will be providing Syria with security and stability by removing the regime and replacing it with another - while Syria sank into blood and destruction," he said.
Media reports said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani hit back at Masnour over his comments, saying that Assad was behind the bloodshed in Syria.
“It was not the decisions of the Arab League that drowned Syria in a sea of blood but Bashar Assad is the one who killed his people and drowned Syria in a sea of blood," al-Thani reportedly said.
Mansour denied later in the day an argument had occurred between him and his Qatari counterpart.
Most ministers in the Lebanese government are affiliated with the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance that strongly supports President Bashar Assad in the conflict that the U.N. says has killed over 70,000 people.
Mansour, who has riled the Lebanese opposition in the past over his stances on the Syria crisis, also told Reuters that he opposed the regional organization giving a seat to the Syrian opposition.
"Syria is a state and a government and the idea that a state could be replaced by a group of opponents is very dangerous," he told the agency.
The heaviest criticism against the Lebanese minister's actions at the regional organization came from the country’s opposition, which accused the foreign minister of acting in the interests of Damascus.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who heads the March 14 coalition that opposes Assad and supports the uprising, said the minister was acting as a mouthpiece for Damascus.
“The Syrian regime has found someone to speak on its behalf at the Arab League and Lebanon's foreign minister has executed this dark mandate which is incompatible with the fundamental basis of Arab solidarity and erases all claims related to the policy of disassociation,” he said in a statement.
Hariri said Mansour’s request clearly showed Lebanon had deviated from its policy of dissociation.
“[Mansour’s request] summarizes very well the ugly role played by the Lebanese government in its approach to the bloody events in Syria.”
In a statement the March 14 alliance described Mansour as “the Charge D’affaires of the Syrian regime in Lebanon” and warned that his behavior was becoming a “real danger” to Lebanese interests.
The opposition called for the lifting of Mansour’s diplomatic immunity, which “he has been using in the service of the Assad regime and his aggressive policies toward his people and Lebanon as well as its Arab and international legitimacy.”
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, another staunch critic of Assad in the opposition, described Mansour’s actions as shameful and reiterated his call for the government to resign.
Mansour has on several occasions been accused by Lebanon’s opposition of acting individually without the approval of the Cabinet, particularly on matters linked to Syria. - With Reuters