Lebanon News

Hezbollah slams ‘rudeness’ in Obama’s speech

BEIRUT: Hezbollah lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama Friday over the speech on the Arab uprising that he delivered the day before, asking how Obama could call for reform when the U.S. is “allied to dictators.”

“The only thing that surprised us about … Obama’s arrogant rhetoric was the level of his rudeness and distortion of several issues,” said a statement issued by the party.

“Obama’s previous speech in Cairo and the [recent] one in Washington will add nothing to his eroding political capital, which was exhausted by his completely biased positions [in support of] the Zionist enemy … and his permanent hostility toward the people, their rights and free choice,” Hezbollah added.

The party highlighted Washington’s continuing support for dictatorships in the Arab world and his failure to address the essential rights of the Palestinian people, which were endorsed by the U.N., “especially the refugees’ right of return and the issue of Jerusalem.”

Hezbollah slammed the American policy of “pressure and sanctions” against Syria, linking the measures to Syria’s decision to carry out reforms of its initiative, away from U.S. demands.

In this speech, Obama hailed the popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world as a “historic opportunity,” and said that “it will be a policy of the United States to promote reform across the region.”

Obama said that any agreement creating a Palestinian state must be based on the borders that existed before Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Arab-Israel war, with “mutually agreed [land] swaps.”

The U.S. president also said Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been grappling with nine weeks of popular unrest, “now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”

Caretaker Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar, a Lebanese Forces-backed official, hailed Obama’s remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It is a great idea now, given what is happening in the Middle East, that a new step is made by the Israelis and the Palestinians toward a new path for peace. The rapprochement between governments in Gaza and the West Bank is really important and it is an [opportunity] to be seized,” Najjar told The Daily Star.

Najjar said that Obama’s remarks to Assad were “accurate” and “clear.”

“I found what he said accurate and was as clear as possible. I don’t think that [Obama] could have said anything further publicly.”

The caretaker minister said that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to Lebanon, which began Thursday, was rumored to be aimed at determining the potential effects in Lebanon of a collapse of the Syrian regime.

“It is very important for the U.S. to know what could eventually happen in Lebanon and it is wise to work out some alternatives for it,” he said.

Former Premier Salim al-Hoss told The Daily Star, “the speech contained so much talk without meaning.”

“We don’t accept his proposal [about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict]. It is as if before the 1967 occupation, Israel wasn’t a problem for us. We want Palestine, stretching from the [Mediterranean Sea] to the [Jordan] River,” Hoss said.

“But this doesn’t mean that we want to throw the Jews into the sea. Let there be a Jewish community in the land of Palestine, but Palestine should have an Arab identity,” he added.

Hoss said that Obama’s remarks about Assad reflected “arrogance.”

“We never say to the U.S. president, ‘You either do this or leave.’”

Minieh MP Ahmad Fatfat said that Obama’s speech was mainly directed toward the American public, while the focus on the 1967 borders was “good.”

“But if the right of return is not addressed, this means that nothing has been done,” he added. – with additional reporting by Patrick Galey

Syrian envoy: U.S. rhetoric not surprising

BEIRUT: Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon said Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech a day earlier was “not surprising,” adding it reflected a bias toward Israel in American foreign policy.

“The U.S. rhetoric is not surprising. When it comes to the region, U.S. policy was, and is, biased to Israeli aggression and ambitions, and [the speech] did not offer any program that satisfies the Arab citizen,” Ambassador Ali Abdel-Karim Ali told reporters after a meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri at the latter’s residence in Ain al-Tineh.

The Syrian diplomat said that the solutions promised by the U.S. administration “provided nothing new.”

In his speech on the wave of Arab uprisings, Obama said that Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been grappling with nine weeks of unrest, “now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”

Ali said that Syria was heading in the right direction. “Syria … will emerge … more fortified. God willing, reforms are moving at an accelerated pace.”

Asked if there was a connection between the visit of Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, which began Thursday in Lebanon, and events in Syria, Ali said Feltman “is not new to Lebanon; he interferes in Lebanon from inside and outside [the country].”

Asked about the national dialogue that Assad promised to launch with the Syrian opposition, Ali said the dialogue will be “broad-based and open, and will include all Syrians.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 21, 2011, on page 2.

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