saad hariri 298.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Tensions between Lebanon and Syria appeared to be mounting on Thursday as Lebanese leaders across the political spectrum launched scathing attacks on Syrian President Bashar Assad, accusing him of seeking to split apart the Lebanese people.
The unprecedented attacks on Assad came in response to a speech he delivered in Damascus earlier this week in which he accused anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon of collaboration with Israel.
In his speech, Assad also implicitly attacked Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He claimed that US plans for a new Middle East had become an illusion following what he described as a victory by Hizbullah against Israel.
Lebanese parliamentarian Saad Hariri condemned Assad for inciting against Lebanon and called on the Lebanese people to rally behind their government. "The speech was an incitement for sedition in Lebanon. The Syrian president has hurt his position, Syria's and Lebanon's," he told supporters.
"The Damascus regime is exploiting the blood of Kana and Gaza and Baghdad to bring sedition to Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq so that the Muhajereen Palace now deserves to be called the 'Mutajereen' palace," he said in a play on words. Muhajereen is the presidential palace in Damascus, while Mutajereen means traders.
Hariri and his supporters have accused Assad of involvement in the 2005 assassination of his father, former prime minister Rakif Hariri. A UN investigative team has implicated Syrian intelligence officials in the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.
"Lebanon's wound [inflicted by Israel] is deep and painful, but today it has faced a deeper one from a friend [Syria]," added the son, who heads Lebanon's largest parliamentary bloc.
While the Syrian people showed the Lebanese love and support, the Syrian government presented hatred and lies to the Beirut government, he said. "Syria is threatening to shake the stability in Lebanon but we reject that," he said. "The victory is in Lebanese unity."
Hariri also attacked Israel for perpetrating "massacres" in Lebanon. "The history of Israel is full of massacres, but our history is marked by its steadiness," he said. "The Israeli aggression may be able to destroy Lebanon, but it cannot touch Lebanese unity, which is what will help to rebuild the country."
Lebanon's Druse leader, Walid Jumblatt, whose father, Kamal, was also believed to have been killed by the Syrians in the 1970s, warned that Assad might be preparing for another wave of assassinations in Lebanon.
"The Syrian regime is readying for an assassination campaign," Jumblatt told the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal.
Jumblatt later said that Assad was using Lebanon to improve his conditions for negotiating with the US. He also accused Assad of seeking to divert attention from his responsibility for the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
"Assad is fighting his war at the expense of the Lebanese people," he said. "If he wants to fight, why doesn't he do so from the Golan Heights?"
Communications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, part of Jumblatt's party, said Assad's statements were testimony that he had "returned to his old habits - murder and threatening murder."
Ibrahim Kanaan, a parliament member from the Change and Reform List headed by former army general Michel Aoun, said most Lebanese did not want Assad to remind them of the past. "We hope he will recognize that the Shaba Farms belong to Lebanon and that he will release thousands of Lebanese prisoners held in Syria," he said.
A-Nahar editor-in-chief Ghassan Tawini wrote that Lebanon had paid a higher price than any of the other Arab states, and that it had to make this clear to all of them. "We need a regime that will stand up and shout to the Arabs, to all the Arabs, from Damascus to Cairo, in a voice loud enough to reach Teheran: Lebanon has paid the price of the Arab dream and the Arab rights like no one else - not Egypt when Israel occupied its Sinai, and not Syria when Israel occupied its Golan," he said.
Beirut's Al-Mustaqbal termed Assad's speech "a declaration of war on Lebanon." The English language Daily Star said Assad "came out of hiding to make a theatrical appearance" in Damascus, noting that Syria was refusing to sign documents confirming that the Shaba Farms belong to Lebanon.
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