Lebanon News

McCain clarifies remark on safe zone for Free Syrian Army

Jumblatt receives U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly and McCain in Chouf.

BEIRUT: U.S. Senator John McCain clarified Friday that he was not referring to Lebanon when he called for creating a safe zone for the Free Syrian Army.

During a meeting with former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the head of the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc, McCain was asked about his earlier comments calling for an FSA safe zone, and clarified that he did not mean Lebanon.

McCain called Thursday for establishing a safe zone for Free Syrian Army rebels after meeting with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at his residence in Maarab, Kesrouan.

“I’ve always stressed the need to arm the Free Syrian Army, who need weapons, since Russia is supplying [Syrian President Bashar] Assad with weapons. We need to secure a safe zone for the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian opposition to organize their operations, train and treat the wounded,” he told Geagea.

For its part, Hezbollah issued a statement in which it condemned McCain’s call for a safe zone, saying that establishing such an area in north Lebanon would constitute a “flagrant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

The party urged government officials to speak out against McCain’s statements, which it said reflected a policy of “American dictates and intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries.”

During the meeting with McCain, Siniora stressed the importance of Washington’s support for the forces of “moderation and democracy in the world, and the need for the U.S. to commit to the principles it has long called for.”

Earlier, McCain met with President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace, where the two discussed U.S.-Lebanese relations as well as the aid the U.S. provides to the Lebanese Army in a bid to strengthen its role in protecting borders and civil peace.

The two also spoke about the importance of shielding Lebanon from the repercussions of political tumult in neighboring countries. McCain praised Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from the events in Syria, according to a statement from Baabda Palace.

The senator then traveled to Mukhtara, Chouf, to the residence of Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.

Jumblatt praised McCain for his support of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the 2005 assassination of statesman Rafik Hariri and for standing with the Syrian people against the “killing machine” of the Syrian regime.

McCain last visited Lebanon in February 2011. He has also been one of the most forward American proponents of action in Syria against the regime. In April, he visited refugee camps in Turkey, donning flags of the Syrian resistance.

McCain said the Arab Spring would be a success not only in Lebanon, but in the rest of the world, including Russia and China.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 07, 2012, on page 2.




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