BEIRUT: Top Lebanese officials called Tuesday for calm dialogue as tensions mounted between the Future Movement and Hizbullah over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), threatening further escalation.
“Civil peace is a political responsibility to allow the security and military apparatuses to assume their responsibilities in preserving security,” President Michel Sleiman said during a Cabinet meeting held at the Baabda Presidential Palace.
Sleiman stressed the need to halt provocative political discourse and urged various groups to remain committed to the state’s constitutional institutions as the only guarantee to national unity.
Echoing Sleiman, Prime Minister Saad Hariri underscored the importance of upholding the Taif Accord, which put an end to the country’s 1975-90 Civil War, as the only framework to preserve national coexistence.
But Hariri also stressed the similarity between the Taif agreement and the Cabinet’s policy statement, a major framework governing the work of the national unity government, which embraced Hizbullah’s right to resist Israel alongside the Lebanese Army and voiced the government’s support for the STL.
“The policy statement is not a speech but a road map with regard to the formula of the army, the resistance and people,” Hariri said, adding that the document also defined “ties with Syria and the issue of the STL.”
Hizbullah has condemned the STL as an Israeli project, while Future Movement MP Oqab Saqr has threatened to withdraw the movement’s support for the Cabinet policy statement with regard to the “right of the resistance, the Lebanese Army and people to resist Israel” if Hizbullah demands the abolition of the tribunal.
“I renew my pledge as a premier to commit firmly with no potential to compromise on these principles as the safety lines to preserve Lebanon’s stability,” Hariri added.
Separately, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Tuesday urged Lebanese political parties to cooperate with the STL and convey support to it.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera news Channel, Ban said dispute among the Lebanese over the STL were unwelcome as he stressed the need to respect the international judiciary.
Earlier Tuesday, Hariri renewed his commitment to stability and national unity but also equally his commitment to the STL and its work in a message conveyed to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir by the his adviser Daoud al-Sayegh.
“We stress our commitment [to the STL] that was approved by all Lebanese parties during National Dialogue sessions and in the Cabinet’s policy statement,” a statement by Hariri’s press office said.
During the Cabinet session, the premier warned that political differences were part of the democratic system but should not turn into attempts to destabilize public order or undermine the authority of state institutions.
Tensions mounted between Hizbullah and the Future Movement after Hizbullah members escorted former Major General Jamil al-Sayyed from his plane and allowed him access to the airport’s guest hall, where the latter held his news conference without previous authorization from the Foreign Ministry.
Hizbullah’s support for Sayyed followed the former general’s accusation that Hariri along with State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza and other security and judicial officials were behind false witnesses in investigations into former Premier Rafik Hariri’s murder.
Sayyed’s remarks prompted Mirza to summon the former general for questioning over threats made against Hariri and the state.
Hizbullah’s decision to escort Sayyed raised criticism from the Future Movement, which accused the party of raiding the airport.
Commenting on the issue, Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud said during the Cabinet meeting that weapons seen at the airport belonged to bodyguards of MPs and officials.
“There was no armed presence of Hizbullah at the airport but weapons seen belonged to bodyguards of MPs and officials,” Baroud said.
Despite demands for calm rhetoric during the Cabinet session, Hizbullah maintained its sharp rhetoric in a statement issued by MP Hassan Fadlallah as the Cabinet meeting was being held.
The statement came in response to an earlier statement by the Future Movement bloc slamming Hizbullah’s display of force at the airport.
Sayyed reiterated Tuesday his criticism of Hariri, holding the prime minister responsible for criticism against him voiced by Future Movement MPs.
Sayyed said a personal dispute governed his relations with the premier, particularly concerning the issue of false witnesses, while a political dispute existed with Future Movement MPs.
He threatened to “aim his criticism” against Hariri personally as well as his family if the premier does not force his MPS to apologize for their public comments.
In support of Sayyed, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said Mirza was a party in the ongoing dispute with Sayyed. Aoun also resumed his campaign against the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, condemning the department as an illegitimate apparatus.