Salam rules out security coordination with Syrian regime

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Salam rules out security coordination with Syrian regime
Hasan Lakkis/Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Mar. 09, 2015

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam called Sunday for national unity to ward off security threats arising from the war in Syria and ruled out coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies to face Syria-based jihadis, citing the government’s disassociation policy.

Meanwhile, March 14 parties are putting the final touches on a 100-plus member National Council set to be announced on the 10th anniversary of the alliance Saturday, political sources told The Daily Star. The council, comprising March 14 politicians and activists, will replace the coalition’s General Secretariat currently headed by former MP Fares Soueid, the sources said.

Speaking to visitors at his Moseitbeh residence, Salam warned that the threat of terrorist groups that had targeted Lebanon in the past still existed, saying these groups are active in several Lebanese areas. He said the Lebanese Army has full government support in its ongoing battle against terrorism.

“The security plan or plans require complete coordination among military apparatuses,” Salam said. “The Army has received full political support from the government to achieve security and stability inside the country.”

Referring to the fallout of the conflict in Syria in Lebanon, Salam said: “In order to stave off these [security] risks that might come from outside the border as a result of the situation there [in Syria], what is required is to remain united, especially since these risks exist and are permanent.”

Salam said the government’s declared policy to distance Lebanon from the conflict in Syria prevented military cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian armies to face threats posed by Islamist militants entrenched near the border with Lebanon. “We cannot at present depart from the disassociation policy,” he said.

A number of March 8 politicians, including Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, have called on the government to coordinate its anti-terror efforts with the Syrian army to face ISIS and Nusra Front militants holed up in rugged areas near the border with Syria threatening to destabilize Lebanon.

Salam said priority is given to equipping the Lebanese Army and security forces with weapons to help them in the battle against terrorism. He said the first shipment of French weapons to the Lebanese Army funded by a $3 billion Saudi grant would arrive in April. He added that implementation of the other $1 billion Saudi grant, supervised by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to buy arms for the Army and security forces, went on at a quicker pace.

Salam vowed not to allow the Cabinet’s work to be stalled anymore.

“Cabinet sessions will not be obstructed from now on,” he said.

“The Cabinet is responsible for running the citizens’ affairs. Priorities will be approved during the new chance given to the Cabinet, a move that will help shield the internal front,” he said.

“Amid the presidential vacuum, the Cabinet approach should be positive and avoid obstruction under the extraordinary circumstances,” Salam said. “Reactivation of the Cabinet’s work will lead to an improvement of the situation and follow up stability, security and the ongoing dialogue between a number of political parties.”

He was referring to the ongoing dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah and talks between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement.

Following a three-week suspension of Cabinet sessions caused by a rift over a decision-making mechanism, Salam last Thursday chaired a Cabinet meeting, telling ministers that he would no longer allow them to obstruct the government’s work.

The Cabinet has approved a new mechanism aimed at speeding its work, replacing a method which had severely reduced its productivity over the past nine months. Under the new system, regular decisions – particularly those affecting citizen’s daily lives – will be made by “consensus,” but will not necessarily require the consent of all 24 ministers, as was the case previously.

Meanwhile, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai slammed lawmakers for failing to elect a new president over the past eight months while they had met last year to extend Parliament’s mandate.

“It’s high time for the Lebanese, particularly the nation’s lawmakers and political blocs, to stand before God and their conscience to realize the horrendous effect of the failure to elect a head of state and the paralysis this has caused to Parliament which has extended its mandate while at the same time it has failed to elect a president,” Rai said in Sunday’s sermon in Bkirki.

“It’s high time [for the MPs] to realize the horrendous effect of the presidential vacuum, which has thrown the government into a crisis with itself, has stalled appointments and emptied Lebanese embassies of its ambassadors.”

For his part, Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem urged the party’s political rivals not to bet on regional and international developments to influence the presidential election.

“We should make our choices on our own,” Qassem said, addressing students affiliated with Hezbollah. “Lebanon is not on the agenda of any international and regional deal at the moment. They [regional and international powers] have bigger concerns than Lebanon.”

Separately, Hezbollah officials hit back at U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale for criticizing the party.

“The U.S. ambassador took advantage of an official platform to breach international standards of conduct and diplomatic norms by waging a campaign against the Lebanese resistance,” Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi said during a ceremony in south Lebanon.

He likened Hale’s remarks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the Congress last week, saying the ambassador aimed to create divisions among the Lebanese. “It has become necessary for this ambassador, who behaves as though he operates in a non-sovereign state, to abide by diplomatic norms and protocol,” Musawi said.

In a statement after meeting Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Friday, Hale accused Hezbollah of harming Lebanon’s stability by sending forces to fight in Syria and violating the government’s disassociation policy on the Syrian conflict.

“Hezbollah continues to make life and death decisions for all of Lebanon, yet consults no one, is accountable to no Lebanese, and answers to foreign powers,” Hale said, referring to Iran, Hezbollah’s benefactor.

Hezbollah MP Nawar Saheli told Hale to shut up. “We in the resistance are the maker of the culture of life because the heroic martyrs had made with their blood life for all of us,” Saheli said in a speech at an educational ceremony in the Bekaa city of Hermel. “We are proud of what we are doing on the border with Palestine and in Syria and everywhere in which we must be.” He called on “Ambassador Hale to shut up and to look into the Zionist enemy’s violations of U.N. resolutions.”