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Lebanon: Parliament speaker calls for dialogue - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (C), Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam (L) and Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati (R) attend a graduation parade for Lebanese officer cadets at a military academy in Fayadyeh, near Beirut, marking the 68th Army Day, August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Sharif Karim.)

Lebanese president Michel Suleiman (C), parliament speaker Nabih Berri, prime minister-designate Tammam Salam (L) and caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati (R) attend a graduation parade for Lebanese officer cadets at a military academy in Fayadyeh, near Beirut, marking the 68th Army Day on August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Sharif Karim.)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Nabih Berri, presented a six-point road map based on reviving “open dialogue” in Lebanon on Saturday, adding that ownership of military weapons outside the army and resistance within Lebanese borders was not acceptable.

Berri was speaking during the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Moussa Al-Sadr, the founder of the Amal Movement of which Berri is a member, following the cancellation of an event in Nabatiyyah in southern Lebanon due to the security situation.

Berri said: “There is no way to a political settlement except through dialogue.” He added that it was a waste of time waiting for others to help because “Lebanon was no longer a priority for decision-makers.”

Berri suggested that prime minister-designate Tammam Salam should participate in the dialogue alongside the political parties, and that the dialogue should last five consecutive days.

He added that the agenda should include a discussion of the new cabinet, allowing the army to recruit 5,000 additional soldiers to work in Beqaa, Tripoli, and all northern border areas plagued with arms and insurgents. He said the agenda should also include working on ways to free Lebanon from the effects of the Syrian crisis, drawing up a road map for a solution to the economic crisis, reviving dialogue on the election law, and restarting discussion of the national defense strategy.

Berri said: “Every time the government faces a crisis, we manage through national dialogue to put forward a road map which stabilizes the situation, and we were the first to welcome a return to dialogue.” He added that “when we suggested dialogue before, a condition was made that the government must resign before any dialogue. [But] now that it has resigned, a new condition is made, which is the formation of the government.”

He also accused Israel of the recent explosions in Tripoli and in a southern suburb of Beirut. He said: “These types of explosions point to Israeli involvement, and the army and the resistance previously disbanded many spy networks, and those who carry out the explosions are Israeli networks, whatever they are called.”

“Lebanon respects international resolutions, while Israel does not,” he said, asking, “Are we no longer accepted because we are now able to deter the enemy? We defend sovereignty, not sectarianism.”

The speaker added that “we took up arms when the south and western Beqaa became common ground for the Israeli enemy, and because of the Israeli raids, when they even crossed the lines of the UNIFIL to reach Beirut and commit the massacre of Sabra and Shatila, leading to the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006, when Lebanon achieved its first victory against Israel.”

Berri called for an end to all forms of Lebanese interference in Syria, and an end to regional and international intervention in the country. He also warned, however, that Lebanon would be the most affected if war erupted. He described the situation in Syria as a catastrophe akin to that of Palestine in 1948, adding: “We would be facing a catastrophe . . . if the Arab League gave cover to an attack on Syria just like it did in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, Berri called on the Libyan government to reveal to the international community any information from the Gaddafi-era about the fate of Imam Sadr, adding that “everything that was said in the media about Sadr was not true, and the real information from the Gaddafi regime has not yet been revealed after arresting the head of his intelligence and a number of his men.”

He addressed the current Libyan government by saying: “The issue of freedom is what should distinguish you from the previous regime, and Lebanon awaits clear answers from Libya, which would have been obtained from interrogations of those who were responsible for Sadr’s disappearance.”

Imam Moussa Al-Sadr was a prominent Shi’ite cleric who founded the Amal Movement. He disappeared during a trip to Libya on August 31, 1978.