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Hezbollah should not sink into sectarian strife: Sleiman

President Michel Sleiman attends a ceremony at the defense ministry in Yarzeh, Friday, May 24, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Friday Hezbollah should not sink into sectarian strife in Lebanon or in Syria.

“Resistance and liberation is a noble idea, based on the recognition of the results of democratic and constitutional practices,” Sleiman said.

“The meanings of resistance are loftier than sinking into strife, whether at home or next door as the resistance has fought for a national, not sectarian, cause,” Sleiman said in a ceremony marking 13 years of liberation from the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.

The president linked ongoing violence in Tripoli to the two-year-old crisis in neighboring Syria.

"What is happening in Tripoli is a reflection of what is going on in Syria,” he said.

“With our own hands we are turning Lebanon into a [fighting] arena, we are fighting in another arena like Qusair or in an internal arena in Tripoli,” Sleiman said.

He hailed the Lebanese Army and said political leaders must provide support for troops.

“Politicians who represent citizens must provide cover for the Army so it can carry out its tasks,” Sleiman said.

He expressed disappointment that Lebanon failed to capitalize on the liberation of south Lebanon in 2000.

“Lebanon did not reap the fruits of liberation. We have liberated the land but did not liberate man,” he said, adding that “subordination” still exits.

“How can a nation give a wonderful example of resistance and sacrifice and yet promote sectarian practice?” Sleiman asked.

His remarks come after Hezbollah intervened in the Syrian conflict, helping the regime attack the rebel held city of Qusair near the border with Lebanon.

Dozens of Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the battle that pits Sunni rebels against the mainly Shiite party.

There are also reports of large numbers of Sunni Lebanese going to fight for the rebels in Syria.

Clashes erupted in Tripoli between groups for and against the Syrian regime around the time the Qusair battle began.

Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi urged Lebanon’s top three leaders to provide political support for the military to end the deadly fighting in the northern city that has gone on for six days.

“We, Mr. President, are counting on your ability as well as that of the Parliament Speaker [Nabih Berri] and the Prime Minister [Najib Mikati] in getting Lebanon out of its current crisis [in Tripoli],” Kahwagi said in the ceremony for Liberation Day.

He called on Sleiman, Berri and Mikati to “form a political umbrella for the Army so that it can do its duty fully in keeping civil peace away from political polemics.”

Many politicians have been strongly polarized over the clashes and have made little headway on an agreement to end the fighting.

Sources in Tripoli said concern was growing about a possible withdrawal of the Lebanese Army from the embattled areas of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh due to the lack of political support for the military.

“Your presence here today, Mr. President, proves that the political authority stands in support of soldiers and officers and that it is doing what it must to preserve the military,” Kahwagi said during his speech at the Defense Ministry in Yarze.

“We are the only ones who are able to protect the homeland from both local and external plots, and we will not allow anyone to push us out of the equation so conspirators would have the opportunity to harm the unity of Lebanon,” he said.

 

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