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Syrian National Coalition head urges Beirut to “withdraw” Hezbollah militants from Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Syrian national opposition coalition`s newly elected president, Hadi Al-Bahra, speaks during press conference on July 9, 2014 at a Syrian opposition meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

The Syrian national opposition coalition`s newly elected president, Hadi Al-Bahra, speaks during press conference on July 9, 2014 at a Syrian opposition meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Istanbul, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Lebanese government should take tangible steps to curb Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian war, the newly elected head of the Western-backed main opposition group in Syria told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday.

“We understand adopting a policy of ‘self-distancing,’ but we do not understand [Beirut’s] silence on the presence of Hezbollah’s militias in Syria and their daily crossing of the Lebanese–Syrian border without any official response from the government,” the president of the Syrian National Coalition, Hadi Al-Bahra, said in an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.

Bahra called on Beirut to address “tensions” arising from recent clashes between the Lebanese army and Islamists from Syria in the Lebanese border town of Arsal. He also urged the Lebanese government to take steps aimed at “withdrawing Hezbollah militias from Syria and ending their participation . . . alongside the [Damascus] regime in the killing of the Syrian people.”

Bahra accused Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad of facilitating the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), accusing his regime of “laying the ground for it to operate inside and outside Syria.”

However, Syria’s top opposition figure also said the international community had played a role in allowing groups like ISIS to spread by failing to back more moderate groups battling to bring down the Syrian government.

He said: “We call on the international community and the Friends of Syria [to remember] that it is their duty to provide support for the Free Syrian Army in order for it to remain steadfast in the face of ISIS.”

Bahra also denied widespread claims that ISIS dominated the ranks of the armed opposition within Syria itself, saying that the Coalition would not “ally with any organization that does not comply with the objectives of the [Syrian] revolution.”

The full text of the interview with Hadi Al-Bahra will be published tomorrow.