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Suleiman takes dispute to UN amid Sidon violence - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Gunmen and followers of hardline Sunni cleric Sheik Ahmad al-Assir pass in front of Lebanese army soldiers in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Tuesday, June 18, 2013.  (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Gunmen and followers of hardline Sunni cleric Sheik Ahmad Al-Assir pass in front of Lebanese army soldiers in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanese President Michel Suleiman sent a special memorandum on Syrian violations of Lebanese sovereignty to the UN on Tuesday, as the latest round of Syria-inspired violence broke out in southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese president handed the document to UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumby, to pass to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.

The presidential office issued a statement confirming that Suleiman had delivered the memo, and that it dealt with “the violations and attacks carried out by all the warring parties in Syria.”

The move had been a source of intense controversy in Lebanon, and Suleiman took the decision to submit the document over the objections of caretaker foreign minister Adnan Mansour.

Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Suleiman “had called on the foreign minister to submit an official complaint regarding the ongoing Syrian violations, but he refused to do so, which prompted the president to send a direct memo to Ban Ki-moon via his personal representative in Lebanon, making reference to all the security violations and transgressions committed against Lebanese sovereignty.”

Lebanon’s Future bloc praised Suleiman’s “courageous and patriotic” decision, accusing Mansour of failing to carry out his constitutional and national duty.

In a statement issued following the bloc’s weekly meeting chaired by Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister, the movement said: “With steps such as this, Suleiman has asserted the president’s role and position in safeguarding sovereignty and independence.”

“As the head of state, he [Suleiman] acts as a president entrusted with the constitution and the best interests and wishes of the Lebanese people,” the statement added.

Lebanon has become increasingly embroiled in the Syrian crisis, with Hezbollah taking part in fighting against the rebels within Syria itself, and the violence sporadically spilling over into Lebanon.

The southern Lebanese city of Sidon was the scene of heavy clashes earlier this between rival Sunni and Shi’ite militias, in the latest outbreak of violence between factions supporting opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

The fighting reportedly began after the brother of a prominent Sunni cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Assir, was attacked. The preacher is known to be a vocal critic of Hezbollah and its role in Syria.

According to the Red Cross, one man was killed and at least six injured in the clashes.

The fighting, which erupted between followers of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Assir and fighters belonging to Hezbollah and the Sidon Resistance Brigade, saw exchanges of fire with light and medium weapons, including RPGs.

Lebanese security forces took emergency measures to restore calm, deploying in the streets of Sidon in force.

Governor of South Lebanon, Nicolas Abou Daher, said that an emergency security meeting was held in the city to decide how to end the violence.

He said: “This meeting focused on the need to immediately end the firing and ensure that each side withdraws.”

“Orders were issued to the security authorities to take strong decisions to end the security tensions,” he added.

Eye-witnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat that supporters of Al-Assir had fired an RPG towards the Harat Saida district, which “forced the people there to take steps to respond to the source of the firing.”

“Al-Assir and Sidon Resistance Brigade fighters exchanged RPG fire,” added one eye-witness.

A second eye-witness revealed that “The Lebanese army cleared the streets,” forcing fighters from both sides to withdraw.

This was one of the most serious outbreaks of violence in Sidon, a largely Sunni city where a substantial numbers of inhabitants are sympathetic towards to the Sunni-led anti-Assad insurgency in Syria. The people of Sidon have reportedly grown increasingly frustrated with Hezbollah members and sympathizers, creating a tense atmosphere in the city in previous months.