BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman’s proposal that the national dialogue should address current controversial issues would not lead to progress, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Friday, adding that only a focus on the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons could relaunch the stalled talks.
“Identifying the purpose of National Dialogue as a way of resolving pending contentious issues takes the idea of dialogue back to square one,” Hariri said, adding that doing so would mean discussing topics “which have been previously discussed and agreed upon,” according to a statement from his office.
Addressing an iftar banquet he hosted Thursday at Baabda Palace on the occasion of Ramadan, Sleiman said his call for national dialogue had the aim of seeking “the means to resolve outstanding controversial issues and to explore potential solutions for future problems before the latter build up and exacerbate.”
March 14 leaders, including Hariri, the leader of the Future Movement, have voiced skepticism about the proposed dialogue, insisting that Hezbollah’s arms should be the only topic for discussion as a condition of their attendance and participation.
While Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati have generally endorsed Sleiman’s call for national dialogue, Hezbollah has declared that its arms will not be the topic of any dialogue and said that it is ready to discuss a national defense strategy to protect Lebanon against a possible Israeli attack.
In his statement Friday, Hariri reiterated that the national dialogue would only relaunch if it addressed the sole item of Hezbollah’s weapons, which the former prime minister said had prevented the state from exercising authority over its full territory.
“It is regretful that [decisions already taken in previous national dialogue sessions] have remained ink on paper as a result of policies of domination over all aspects of the state [affecting] the government’s right to complete authority over Lebanese territories,” Hariri said.
“The only door to dialogue commences with resolving the issue of illegitimate weapons and not through attempts to include the issue of the Special Tribunal [for Lebanon] on the dialogue table once again,” he added. Hariri also criticized Sleiman for his comments about the unrest in the region.
“Contrary to the view of the president, developments in the Arab region and the close monitoring that has accompanied the course of Special Tribunal [for Lebanon] should not be a cause for anxiety to the Lebanese,” Hariri said.
“In fact, the majority of Lebanese see in the popular Arab movements a chance to spread democracy in Arab politics and weaken repressive and totalitarian regimes, as in what they see happening in the Special Tribunal, whether in terms of defending Lebanon from political crimes or achieving justice in the most exemplary of manner.”
In Sleiman’s address Thursday he had said developments in the region, as well as the controversy over the STL “raise deep concerns among the citizens as to their security and safety and cause economic and social shrinkage.”