BEIRUT: Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour denied Thursday he described the Syrian airstrike on Lebanon as rumors and said his ministry was following up on the issue through diplomatic means.
“That is not true at all and I was surprised to see such remarks because it shows that there is an organized orchestra issuing remarks and articles [about me],” Mansour told the National News Agency when asked about his comments while on a tour of Africa with President Michel Sleiman.
During a trip to Lagos with Sleiman Tuesday, Mansour cast doubt on reports that Syrian jets fired rockets inside Lebanon and told reporters that a probe would be required to uncover more details before taking measures.
Media reports quoted Mansour as saying that the news about the Syrian airstrike were merely rumors.
Sleiman tasked the foreign affairs minister Tuesday with issuing a letter of complaint to Damascus “to prevent the recurrence of such operations," a day after Syrian regime aircraft fired rockets at locations inside Lebanon.
“When I was asked in Nigeria about issuing the memo to the Syrian side, I said I would wait to go back to Lebanon and would pursue the work. But [my words] were altered,” Mansour said.
Syrian aircraft fired four rockets at east Lebanon sites Monday, days after Damascus warned Beirut it would attack suspected rebel sites if incursions from across the border did not cease.
Although Damascus denied the attack Tuesday, Sleiman said the Army confirmed to him that Syrian jets targeted Lebanese soil. Washington also confirmed the reports.
“When the president says that a violation to sovereignty has taken place, is it possible that I would say the opposite? It would be an offense to the president and the Foreign Ministry but not to the minister,” Mansour said.
The minister, who has become a controversial official in Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, said Thursday his ministry was following up the issue via diplomatic channels.
“There are political and professional ethics that should be abided, particularly that Lebanon is going through a difficult time and the most important phases in the country’s modern political history,” he said.
“We should be at the level of national responsibility and not behave merely to settle accounts. We should place national interest above all else. We started diplomatic procedures and we are working through the diplomatic channels,” he added.
The opposition has repeatedly criticized Mansour for what they describe as his pro-regime stances, calling him “Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon,” particularly after he asked the Arab League last month to reinstate Syria as a member of the regional organization.
Damascus’ membership was suspended in 2011.
The March 14 alliance has also accused Mansour of failing to follow instructions from the president and prime minister on matter relating to the Syria crisis.
“I don't stop at sayings and campaigns against me when they say I'm a Syrian ambassador or I represent the Syrian regime. I practice my diplomatic and political work that serves Lebanon's interest with the directions of the president, the prime minister and government,” Mansour said.