AL-GHAJAR OCCUPATION A ‘TIME-BOMB’ – warns Lebanese Foreign Minister


Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Na’im Qasim said last Thursday: ‘We proposed the national unity government as a positive concept.’

Speaking on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television, Qasim continued: ‘We did not speak about toppling the government or about an exceptional case.

‘What we said was that certain developments had occurred in the country that need to be taken into consideration, that the incumbent government failed, despite all the time it has been given, and that certain forces in the country feel that they should offer something to revive and advance the country.

‘We therefore need to create a positive change that involves bringing all these forces together so that we may cooperate within a national unity government.’

Qasim went on to speak about his surprise at the opposition that the proposed government was met with and the attempts by some sides to trigger ‘political tensions’.

He added: ‘I wish to reassure the Lebanese people that the Sunni-Shia issue is a red line on both our (Shia) side and the other (Sunni) side. I will not give ourselves more than I give others.

‘I will clearly say that this matter is not on the table; rather, there is a determination not to allow matters to be sectarianised.

‘I wish to clarify something: there is no sectarian dispute between ourselves and the Future Current, but there is a political dispute.

‘When we speak of mistakes made by the prime minister, we are not speaking about a person who represents a certain sect, but about a political position.’

Qasim went on to comment on accusations directed at the national unity government of being a ‘Syrian-controlled government aimed at hindering the international court’, intended to try those involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

He said that these accusations are nothing but an attempt to divert attention from the fact that the anti-Syrian ‘14 March’ forces ‘listen to and heed American orders and tutelage’.

Qasim added that he finds no justification for the association between the proposed government and the court because the court follows a specific judicial track, regardless of what government is in power.

He accused those opposing the national unity government of wishing to maintain ‘their grip on and monopoly of the country without any accountability’.

Separately, speaking after a meeting with the personal representative of the UN secretary-general in Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, Lebanese Foreign and Expatriate Affairs Fawzi Sallukh warned: ‘Israel’s continued occupation of the Lebanese part of the Al-Ghajar town might lead to other developments, which we can do without.’

Sallukh said: ‘This occupation is like a time bomb planted by Israel, which kept the Shabaa Farms under occupation and dropped cluster bombs, which kill many civilians in the south.

‘Israeli planes violate Lebanese air space as if the war was still going on, at a time when Lebanon implements UN Resolution 1701 to the letter while Israel violates it.’

Minister Sallukh said he conveyed this view to Pedersen.

Receiving Pedersen in his office on Thursday afternoon, Minister Sallukh asserted Lebanon’s call for a cease-fire instead of keeping the agreement on the cessation of hostilities.

He said Pedersen assured him that the issue of a cease-fire is under consideration. Sallukh noted that Lebanon is waiting for Kofi Annan’s report on these issues.

For his part, Pedersen said: ‘We focused on the implementation of Resolution 1701 and deployment of the Lebanese army and international force as far as the Blue Line.’

He added: ‘We also touched on the issue of Al-Ghajar. We are confident that we will reach a new solution to it very shortly, so that it will not develop into a problem.

‘We hope to reach a good solution to it.’

A reporter suggested: ‘Some people say UNIFIL’s primary mission is to disarm Hezbollah.’

Pedersen replied: ‘I do not know who told you this. If you read Resolution 1701, it did not provide for that task.

‘This is a very big and at the same time serious misunderstanding, because UNIFIL’s goal is not to disarm Hezbollah.

‘It is a political goal, and the secretary-general spoke about it many times.

‘Disarming Hezbollah and other non-Lebanese organisations is an internal Lebanese process, and we expect this process to begin, to see if it will work. Removal of weapons is not part of UNIFIL’s mission.’

Earlier, Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, Nabil Birri spoke about his meeting Thursday morning with visiting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and an accompanying delegation.

Speaking after the meeting, Speaker Birri said: ‘Our discussion today centred on the tense situation in the region and in Lebanon.

‘This is obviously due to the Israeli aggressiveness, which continues, and the refusal to return to the regional peace negotiations or to benefit from the Israeli war on Lebanon, which is what I focused on.

‘However, there might be something good in all of this. The results of this war have come to prove that no force, particularly the Israeli force, can claim to guarantee peace for its people.

‘Only peace among people in the region as a whole can guarantee peace. So this is a unique and genuine opportunity to return to the peace negotiations and therefore to discuss the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the Golan and the remaining parts in Lebanon.

‘A peaceful solution in the region now is the only viable way to solve problems in the entire region and eliminate what they call terrorism.’

Asked about the UNIFIL mission in southern Lebanon, Birri said: ‘There is no problem at all. Resolution 1701 is clear and the Lebanese army role is clear.’

Asked if he had discussed with Prodi the question of the exchange of prisoners, Birri said: ‘Yes. Prime Minister Prodi brought up this issue and I told him that this issue should be the subject of indirect negotiations with the brothers in Hezbollah.’

Asked whether, in the wake of the delivery of the maps containing land mines to UN force, there is another step regarding the Shabaa Farms, Birri said: ‘First of all, we would like a similar step regarding the cluster bombs, which are killing our men, children, women and elderly people every day.

‘After that, all the Lebanese rights must be secured, from the issue of prisoners to the Shabaa Farms.

Now, another problem has emerged in Al-Ghajar town.’

Birri was asked to comment on reports that he intends to travel together with Lebanese Prime Minister Al-Siniora to Damascus and rebuild the bridges between Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Sa’d al-Hariri.

Birri replied: ‘The relations between brother Nasrallah and Al-Hariri are not as bad as they claim to be.

‘The relations between the brothers in Hezbollah and the brothers in the Future Current continue and things are getting better, not worse.

‘Therefore, there is no room for other interpretations. In many cases the problem relates to rumours more than to reality. God willing, things will become better and better.’