Lebanon News

March 14: Dialogue boycott bid to paralyze state

BEIRUT: March 14 leaders described Thursday Hizbullah and its allies’ boycott of the National Dialogue as an indication they intend to paralyze the function of Lebanese state institutions should their demands vis a vis the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) not be endorsed.

While Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the March 8 coalition’s decision to tie national issues to government affairs was an obstruction of dialogue, the premier’s allies warned against attempts to overthrow state institutions.

“Dialogue is the basis of the country and I regret that some missed the National Dialogue committee meeting … All parties should attend the next session and refrain from tying issues together because the Defense Strategy is one thing … and issues discussed in the Cabinet are something else,” he said.

“To simplify matters, this move is a crime against the nation and all parties should refrain from political overbidding,” he added.

Addressing International College students later Thursday, Hariri said attempts to obstruct dialogue pushed the country toward political deadlock.

But he dismissed the possibility of strife despite the provocative discourse of rival parties.

“I assure you that the situation will not move toward what some hope for and others are planning,” he said.

The premier also praised, the participation of Hizbullah ally Speaker Nabih Berri in the dialogue as evidence that dialogue among the Lebanese had not reached a dead end.

Following the session, Berri held closed door talks with President Michel Sleiman after a similar meeting between the president and Hariri, which the speaker later joined.

In remarks to reporters, Berri quipped that March 8 parties boycotted dialogue in solidarity with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt.

Jumblatt missed the session owing to his travel schedule.

Sleiman, who chaired the committee’s meeting at Baabda Presidential Palace, said another session would be scheduled before November 22.

Hizbullah’s decision to boycott talks came in solidarity with its ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, according to Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc leader MP Mohammad Raad.

Aoun suspended his participation to protest the postponement of Cabinet discussions over the issue of “false witnesses.”

Hizbullah’s Sheikh Naim Qassem said the “clock will be turned back. All opposition factions will go to the end to achieve their demands to refer the issue of false witnesses to the Judicial Council and put it on the right legal track.”

But Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel said National Dialogue was a framework to assess strategic issues rather than minor practices.

He questioned the motives behind the obstruction of dialogue by tying the Defense Strategy to the issue of “false witnesses.”

Minister of State Jean Hogassapian said Cabinet issues were  “different” from those of the National Dialogue committee.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said the boycott was a message aimed at the top three state officials and Lebanese constitutional institutions in line with attempts to overthrow the STL.

“The debated issue is the presence of a tribunal or its abolition … They have a position concerning false witnesses but what does it have to do with National Dialogue … what is their alternative if they do not want to discuss issues?” Geagea asked.

Regarding Berri’s participation, Geagea said the speaker, “contrary to other parties, possessed a sense of responsibility.”

 

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