Mustaqbal 'Besieges' Rifi as Hariri Throws Support behind Mashnouq

The war of words between Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and former justice minister Ashraf Rifi took a new turn after Prime Minister and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri threw his support behind Mashnouq.

“A decision to besiege Rifi has been taken in al-Mustaqbal Movement,” sources following up on the issue told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Sunday.

The so-called siege has taken three forms.

“The first through a media siege, whose last episode was canceling a TV interview with Rifi's adviser Asaad Beshara, the second was slashing the size of Rifi's guard platoon, and third is the attempt to regain Tripoli's popular bases through resuming Mustaqbal's 'services' in the city,” the sources said.

Rifi had lashed out at Mashnouq over the removal of several policemen from his guard platoon, revealing that Hariri had told U.N. investigators probing Rafik Hariri's assassination that Mashnouq might have “leaked” information about his father prior to the 2005 bomb attack.

But Hariri jumped into the exchange of tirades on Friday, throwing his support behind Mashnouq.

“How mistaken I was when I doubted Nouhad al-Mashnouq and placed my full confidence in some people,” Hariri tweeted.

The Mashnouq-Rifi confrontation had first erupted over the arrest of Omar Bahr, one of Rifi's bodyguards, after he allegedly violated Internal Security Forces bylaws.

The move prompted Rifi to accuse Mashnouq of corruption and of being a Hizbullah crony.

The ex-minister also accused Mashnouq of compromising his security, holding him responsible for any harm that he might face.

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