Lebanon News

Future Movement denies instigating Syrian unrest via arms and protests

BEIRUT: The Future Movement denied Tuesday interfering in Syrian internal affairs after Syrian and Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets accused it of inciting protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. 

“Certain media outlets are attempting to involve Lebanon in regional events and falsely accuse certain Lebanese political parties of being a source of weapons and a threat to the security and stability of Syria,” a statement released by the Future Movement parliamentary bloc said.

“Such claims are false and were made [in order] to be exploited in Lebanon’s internal political bickering. The bloc denies them and hopes that Syria overcomes this period quickly through security and peace,” added the statement added, which was released after the bloc’s meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Recent claims that the Future Movement intended to plan protests in Tripoli against the Syrian regime overlapped with reports of the seizure by Syrian authorities of seven arms shipments that sailed from the city’s port destined for Syrian shores.

While several Lebanese parties rallied to voice support for President Bashar Assad’s regime and the Future Movement denied any role in supporting the Syrian opposition, some of the movement’s conservative figures warned Syria’s allies in Lebanon against publicizing false accusations to achieve political gains.

Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara was more aggressive than his Future Movement colleagues in his response to the accusations, saying attempts by Syria’s allies to publicize “such lies” would backfire on the Syrian regime.

“The reliance of the followers of the Syrian regime on such lies will not help defend it, but rather increase its isolation,” the Future Movement lawmaker said.

However, Future Movement official and Sidon MP Bahia Hariri said the Future Movement rejected any verbal assaults against Syria.

“We are against any acts that could spark strife and threaten the safety of the [Lebanese] people since Sunni-Shiite and Muslim-Christian ties remain a top priority,” Hariri added.

Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan, a Syrian ally, said Lebanese parties should refrain from intervening in Syrian affairs and warned that such intervention would backfire.

In a news conference held at his residence in Khaldeh, Arslan said attempts to destabilize Syria to punish it for its support for resistance movements against Israel would fail. “Dealing a blow to Syria’s stability is a blow to Lebanon’s stability,” Arslan said.

Echoing Arslan, caretaker Minister of State Adnan Qassar said foreign powers were plotting to instigate a schism in Syria and warned that “instability in Syria will deal a blow to stability in Lebanon and the entire region.”

Baath Party Secretary in Lebanon Fayez Shukor said Syrian workers in Tripoli were being paid by the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces to spark chaos in the city, as reported by Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV.

“But I tell them that all the plots fabricated in Lebanon have ended in failure,” Shukor said.

Relations between caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Damascus have deteriorated recently after Syria’s allies in the March 8 coalition brought down Hariri’s Cabinet in January over his refusal to halt ties with a U.N.-backed tribunal, which is widely believed to implicate Hezbollah members in Hariri’s father’s assassination.

The Future Movement leader had resumed contact with Syria in 2008 after four years of broken ties following the assassination of his father, statesman Rafik Hariri, whose killing was widely blamed on Syria at the time.

Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat described accusations against his party as “very ridiculous.”

“Our political position is clear in regard to our rejection of any Syrian intervention in Lebanon and, vice versa, we reject any Lebanese intervention in Syria,” Fatfat said.

Fatfat’s colleague, Hadi Hobeish, described the reports as “too ridiculous to deserve a response” and added that no party had an interest in promoting instability in Syria.

In a statement earlier Tuesday, Future Movement said: “Hezbollah media outlets continue to spread lies, the latest being publicized by Al-Intiqad website about plans by the movement’s officials to set off protests in north Lebanon.”

“The media outlets affiliated with Hezbollah are seeking to spread chaos in order to hold the Future Movement responsible for events in Syria despite the fact that Future Movement Secretary General Ahmad Hariri said Syria’s stability is Lebanon’s stability. We have no business in what is happening [in Syria],” it added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 30, 2011, on page 2.

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