Lebanon News

Lebanon seeks follow up with Syria over airstrike

Prime Minister Najib Mikati heads a Cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail, Friday, March 15, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati tasked during a Cabinet session Wednesday the country’s foreign minister with following up with Syrian officials the recent Syrian air raid on Lebanese territory.

“Mikati called on Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to follow up on the Syrian air bombardment of Lebanese territory with Syrian authorities in order to take the necessary measures to preserve the rights of Lebanon, particularly given that the Lebanese Army is working to control the border,” Information Minister Walid Daouk said following the Cabinet session at the Grand Serail.

Asked whether Mansour was tasked with lodging a complaint to Syria over the incident, Daouk said: “Differences [over this] were addressed and discussed in the Cabinet ... but the foreign minister was not tasked with anything of that kind,” he said.

President Michel Sleiman, who described Tuesday the Syrian air attack on east Lebanon a day earlier as “unacceptable,” tasked Mansour with issuing a letter of complaint to Damascus to prevent the recurrence of similar attacks.

Syrian jets and helicopters fired four rockets hitting empty buildings inside Lebanon Monday, days after Damascus warned officials in Beirut it would attack suspected rebel sites if incursions from across the border did not cease. Syria has denied its air force struck targets in Lebanon.

On Tuesday, Mansour, who was accompanying Sleiman on his trip to West Africa, cast doubt on reports that Syrian jets fired rockets inside Lebanon and told reporters in Lagos that a probe would be required to uncover more details before taking measures.

State Minister Mohammad Fneish voiced similar skepticism prior to the Cabinet session Wednesday.

“The Syrians denied that any of these violations had been committed,” the Hezbollah official said, according to the National News Agency.

“If they did occur, then these will be resolved through diplomatic channels between the two sisterly countries,” he added.

The United States and France both condemned Monday the aerial attack that targeted the Arsal villages of Khirbet Youneen and Wadi al-Khayl in the Bekaa Valley, located approximately 5 kilometers away from the Syrian border.

Britain also condemned the attack Wednesday, with its foreign secretary saying Damascus had demonstrated “once again its disregard for international law and the security of its neighbors.”

“I condemn the Syrian regime’s aerial attack on northern Lebanon,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said, according to a statement from the British Embassy in Beirut Wednesday.

The March 14 coalition, staunch opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, urged that a complaint be filed to the United Nations Security Council against the Syrian government for its “repeated violations of Lebanese sovereignty, particularly the airstrike on Lebanese territory using rockets.”

In a statement following their weekly meeting, the opposition also praised Sleiman’s initiative in instructing Mansour to “take the necessary diplomatic measures to summon the Syrian ambassador and to confront the regime with what it has committed.”

Their move comes a day after the Future Movement, which heads the March 14 coalition, slammed the government’s silence on the attacks and failure to inform the public about the events.

Describing it the violations as having reaching “a tipping point,” the Future Movement urged that complaints to the Arab League and United Nations be lodged over the attack.

The opposition has repeatedly accused Mansour of failing to act upon instructions from the president and prime minister on matters relating to Syria.

Mansour most recently stirred the ire of the opposition after he urged to Arab League to reinstate Syria as a member of the regional organization. It accused him of deviating from the country’s self-avowed disassociation policy toward developments in the region, particularly in relation to the Syria crisis.

Mansour has defended his actions and says he faces a campaign with the ultimate objective of targeting the Lebanese government.





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