Former PM, Saad Hariri: Lebanon does not belong to any axis
Hashem Osseiran/The Daily Star/Feb. 14, 2015
BEIRUT: Lebanon does not belong to any regional axis and has no right to interfere in the affairs of other countries, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Saturday, criticizing Hezbollah for involving the country in regional matters. But the Future Movement chief also underlined the importance of dialogue with his arch rivals, saying talks launched between the two parties in December were “serious.” “Lebanon is not in an axis that extends from Iran to Syria to Palestine,” Hariri said at a ceremony in Beirut marking the 10th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former premier Rafik Hariri. “Lebanon is not in any axis and the Lebanese are not products to be used on anyone’s table.” He said those behind the assassination of his father are still working 10 years after his death to kill his legacy of unity and coexistence. “We will not give up Hariri’s dream for Arab unity and the construction of a modern state,” Hariri said.
“We are staring down a plan to clear out government and destroy its institutions. We are witnessing a marginalization of Lebanon in its regional and international relations. We are also facing economic turmoil,” he added. But the Future Movement is working to counter these efforts to protect Lebanon, he said. Hariri noted the party’s participation in the Lebanese Cabinet alongside its opponents, and its dialogue with Hezbollah. “It is urgent and it is a necessary Islamic need to deflate religious tensions.” “Defusing tensions is meant to evade a sectarian explosion.”This does not mean that differences are settled with regards to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, or Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria or the issue of the state’s monopoly of arms, he added. Hariri said that he refuses turning Lebanon into a battlefield in order to save the Syrian regime and protect Iran’s interests.
He also criticized Hezbollah for commenting on the events in Bahrain, which marked the 4th anniversary of its pro-democracy uprising Saturday. “Where is Lebanon’s interest in intervening in the internal affairs of Bahrain,” he asked, in reference to Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah’s criticism of the Bahraini regime’s crackdown on opposition activists and political leaders. “We came into dialogue to protect Lebanon because Lebanon is more important than us and more important them, as Hariri used to say: ‘No one is greater than their country’.”
But he left his harshest criticisms for the Syrian President Bashar Assad, accusing him of “[breaking] the heads of the Syrian population,” and tying him to his father’s assassination. “The assassination of [Rafik Hariri] was carried out after Assad threatened to break Beirut over his head, and the [STL] has been looking into this for weeks, and we have the utmost confidence that it will reach the right verdicts and we are sure that the blood of Hariri and March 14 martyrs will not go to waste,” he said. He also said betting on the success of the Syrian government “is a delusion that is based on delusional victories.”
“Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria is insanity and Hezbollah has brought this insanity to Lebanon.”“Tying the Golan Heights to south Lebanon is insanity as well,” he said, in reference to Hezbollah’s participation alongside Syrian troops in the battles against rebels in southern Syria. Israel last month launched an airstrike on a Hezbollah convoy in the Golan Heights, killing six party members and sparking a retalition against an Israeli military convoy from southern Lebanon. Hariri urged Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria, saying Lebanon could no longer bear the consequences of the conflict’s spillover. “We (March 14) are aware that there is no middleground between moderation and extremism, and there is no middleground between the Army and the militia, and there is no middleground between national unity and civil war,” he said. Hariri’s speech was held at the Biel complex in Beirut where hundreds of his supporters turned out. The crowd erupted in a frenzy as Hariri made his way in to the auditorium. The throng of attendees yelled out “Abu Bahaa,” in reference to the late premier.
Hariri arrived in Beirut from his home in Riyadh overnight to participate in the event. Hariri’s last visit to Lebanon was in August following the deadly clashes in the country’s northeastern border town of Arsal. He has been living in self-imposed exile between France and Saudi Arabia since January 2011 over security concerns.