Hariri: Terrorism ‘existential threat’ to Lebanon
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned Friday that the rise of terrorism was an existential threat to Lebanon, blaming Hezbollah for deepening the sectarian divide in the country.
Speaking to the gathering of March 14 coalition leaders in his downtown residence, hours after arriving to Beirut in a surprise return, Hariri said the priority was backing the state and its security institutions “in order to strengthen stability and fend off attempts to jeopardize Lebanon’s coexistence.”“The threat of terrorism is serious and existential and any leniency in dealing with it would pave the way for strife and be the end of Lebanon,” he said. Hariri, who has been out of the country for a little over three years, also reiterated his criticism of Hezbollah’s military presence in Syria alongside regime troops.
“Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria has only brought harm to Lebanon, particularly for the Shiite community with the wave of bombings that hit the southern suburbs and the Bekaa,” he said.
Describing the series of suicide and car bombings as a reaction to the party’s role in Syria, Hariri said: “ Hezbollah has severely harmed intra-Muslim ties and placed the Army and security forces at risk of attacks from terrorist groups.”
“We saw how the Army is paying a hefty price as a result of Hezbollah’s insistence on imposing a status quo none of the Lebanese agreed to.”
“If Hezbollah is making mistakes, that does not mean we should respond to it with similar ones or adopt methods that would jeopardize the state.”
The Future Movement leader noted that ending the presidential paralysis was a priority for the country, saying: “Electing a new president is the responsibility of everyone and it is not true that it falls exclusively on Saad Hariri.” “It is high time we … open the door for consensus and elect a president and move together to face challenges.”
“I return to Beirut today after a three-year absence, which was the harshest punishment in my life. My return is my most valuable reward,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Hariri made a surprise return to Lebanon, after more than three years abroad due to security concerns, saying he had come to Beirut to oversee a $1 billion anti-terror Saudi grant.
“My return came after the Saudi grant which we must see how to implement and translate such as it supports the Army and security forces,” Hariri said following talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail. Riyadh announced a $1 billion grant earlier this week to help the Lebanese Army fight the growing threat of terrorism, following days of clashes between the Army and Islamist militants from Syria in the northeastern town of Arsal.
Asked whether he had received guarantees for his safety, Hariri, surrounded by a number of journalists, said: “God protects us all.”
Before arriving at the Grand Serail, Hariri stopped at the tomb of his late father, former five-time Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, amid tight security measures in the Downtown area.
As he stepped out of his tinted-window car in the courtyard of the Grand Serail, Cabinet Secretary-General Suheil Bouji embraced Hariri and accompanied him inside the government house.
A group of honor guards greeted Hariri as he walked on a red carpet toward the building, which was packed with security officials and politicians gathered to welcome the former prime minister.
From the Grand Serail, Hariri headed to his residence in the capital’s downtown, where Future Movement officials including his aunt, MP Bahia Hariri, were eagerly waiting for his long-awaited arrival.
Pictures circulating online showed Bahia Hariri, in her signature white head scarf, embracing Saad Hariri as the former premier took a selfie while March 14 coalition politicians, surrounding the Future Movement leader, waited in line to greet him. The residence has been vacant since Hariri’s departure a little over three years ago, but the March 14 group used to hold their weekly meetings at the residence.
Upon his arrival, Hariri held separate talks with U.S. Ambassador David Hale, who did not make any comments after the meeting, as well as Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri and head of the Future bloc Fouad Siniora. A number of officials, including Speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanese Army Gen. Jean Kahwagi and head of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, phoned Hariri to welcome him back to Lebanon. The Future Movement leader had left Lebanon shortly after the collapse of his unity government when Hezbollah and its allies quit the Cabinet in January of 2011. He has been residing in Saudi Arabia since April 2011, citing security concerns. Future Movement official and political adviser Rached Fayed commented on Hariri’s surprise return to Lebanon by saying “he has come to stay.”
“Hariri is a party in the war against terror, and his return was engineered at the international, Arab and regional levels,” he said.
Fayed said the Saudi $1 billion grant was coupled with a practical plan to confront terrorism, and “Hariri’s return is part of this plan aimed at reinforcing the moderate Sunni trend.”
Fayed contended that “the systematic targeting of the Future Movement in the past years had resulted in nurturing Sunni extremism.”
Hariri has spoken out forcefully against extremism, condemning the attack on Arsal by Sunni rebels belonging to the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. Lebanese troops retook the border town Thursday after militants retreated toward the Syria border. However, the militants have taken a number of soldiers captive and are thought to be holding them in the border region between Lebanon and Syria. Hariri said Wednesday that the grant from his ally Saudi King Abdullah was aimed at building the capacity of the Lebanese Army to fight terrorism that had spilled over into Lebanon from the Syrian civil war. “Hariri came back to tilt the balance toward moderation. His return is a must and need for his political opponents more than his allies,” Fayed said.
In Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and a support base for Hariri, residents offered candy to passersby in celebration while others cruised along roads in Akkar and Beirut with Hariri’s pictures and the Future Movement’s blue flag plastered on their vehicles, honking and cheering for their leader’s return.
March 14 Reunites with Hariri: Controlling Border Cannot Be Complete without Hizbullah Withdrawal from Syria
Naharnet /The March 14 coalition held an extraordinary expanded meeting at the Center House on Friday evening, in the presence of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the first time in over three years following his surprise return to Lebanon earlier in the day.The conferees called for controlling the Lebanese-Syrian border by deploying army troops supported by international peacekeeping forces, according to the stipulations of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701. “But controlling the border in all directions cannot be complete without Hizbullah’s immediate withdrawal from the Syrian war to avert the repetition of scourges that threaten Lebanon and its security,” a statement released by the coalition after the meeting said, highlighting the unrest in the northeastern border town of Arsal and its surroundings.
“March 14 is committed to continuing its struggle for Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty, and for freeing the country from all types of mandates by illegally armed” groups, the statement assured.
It also stressed the alliance’s commitment to the state and to “all its political, military and security institutions.””These are the only guarantee for Lebanese people’s safety and stability, and for Christian-Islamic coexistence,” it elaborated. “Our only project remains building a constitutional states m starting from the election of a new president.” The conferees lauded during the meeting Hariri’s return as a proof of his “commitment to Lebanon’s unity and independence.””His return is a ray of hope,” the alliance expressed. As well, the March 14 leaders thanked Saudi King Abdullah for “supporting the Lebanese army and security forces in the fierce battle against terrorism.”Hariri had arrived in Beirut earlier on Friday after spending three years abroad. He left Lebanon in early 2011, months after the collapse of his national unity cabinet. He has repeatedly claimed that security reasons were preventing his return to Beirut. He arrived on Friday amid security tension in the Bekaa region of Arsal, where army troops battled jihadist militants for several days. The clashes resulted in the martyrdom of scores of soldiers, and the injury of over 80 others. Prior to his return, the former Premier declared on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has provided Lebanon’s army with one billion dollars to strengthen security. Hariri explained during a security meeting on Friday afternoon that he was tasked by King Abdullah with supervising the spending of the Saudi grant.
Future Movement: Hariri’s return a boost to Sunni moderation
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon is aimed at reinforcing moderation within the Sunni community, which felt largely marginalized by Hezbollah’s political and security upper hand in the country, according to a Future Movement official. According Rached Fayed, a Future official and political adviser, Hariri’s unannounced return was not a surprise.
“Hariri has come to stay. He was to return to Lebanon sooner or later, but his presence here now is needed by allies and foes alike, for the sake of boosting Sunni moderation,” Fayed told The Daily Star Friday. Hariri, political heir of his father, slain Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, returned to Lebanon Friday morning after more than three years in self-exile. He had left the country a few months after the collapse of his government in 2011, and stayed away for personal security concerns. His comeback follows a major spillover of the Syrian conflict in Arsal on the country’s eastern border with Syria, where the Army battled takfiri jihadists from the Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “Hariri is a party in the war against terror, and his return was engineered at the international, Arab and regional levels,” Fayed said. “The return is a concrete interpretation of Arab, regional and international keenness to preserve Lebanon’s stability and security.”
Hariri told reporters after holding talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam in the Grand Serail, that his return “comes after the Saudi grant to the Lebanese Army and to discuss ways to implement it.”
The former premier’s return comes two days after Saudi Arabia announced a $1 billion donation to help Lebanon fight terrorism, following five days of clashes between the Army and Syrian rebels in Arsal in which 17 soldiers, 42 civilians and at least 60 militants have been killed. Fayed argued that Saudi grant bestowed to Lebanon was coupled with a practical plan to confront terrorism, and “Hariri’s return is part of this plan aimed at reinforcing the moderate Sunni trend.” Fayed contended that “the systematic targeting of the Future Movement in the past years “resulted in nurturing Sunni extremism.
“Hariri came back to tilt the balance towards moderation. His return is a must and need for his political opponents more than his allies.”