Hamadeh Hits Back at Aoun, Says His Ministers Hired 'Hizbullah Cronies' at Telecom Ministry

MP Marwan Hamadeh on Tuesday snapped back at Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun over remarks related to Hizbullah's controversial telecom grid in Zahle, accusing ministers loyal to Aoun of employing “Hizbullah cronies” at the Ministry of Telecommunications.

Aoun “protected Hizbullah's May 2008 coup against the Lebanese government, which tried back then to prevent Hizbullah from installing its illegal telecom network,” Hamadeh said, noting that the party “invaded the capital Beirut and attacked Mount Lebanon” to thwart the government's efforts.

Hamadeh reminded the FPM leader that former telecom “minister Jebran Bassil was the one who assumed the telecom ministry portfolio after the Doha settlement which followed the May coup, and it was him and the minister who succeeded him (Nicolas Sehnaoui) who brought Hizbullah cronies to the heart of the telecom ministry and technically abolished the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority."

The MP, who served as telecom minister in Fouad Saniora's cabinet, hailed “the residents, MPs and dignitaries of Zahle for their steadfastness” and lauded the municipality and residents of the Bekaa town of Tarshish, where a similar confrontation over Hizbullah's grid had taken place in the past.

Hamadeh called on the military and security institutions to “draw lessons from the vigor of the Lebanese public opinion and prevent any May 7-like coup.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Aoun said: “Whoever allowed Hizbullah to expand its telecommunications network in the Bekaa town of Zahle must resolve this issue to prevent unrest similar to that of May 7, 2008.”

“What did former Premier Fouad Saniora and then Ministers Marwan Hamadeh and Elias al-Murr do on May 5 and 7, 2008?” he asked.

Gunmen belonging to Hizbullah and its allies swept through Beirut’s neighborhoods on May 7, 2008 after the government of then PM Saniora tried to dismantle the group's telecommunications network, which Hizbullah says is for purely military purposes related to its conflict with Israel.

The fighting that left scores dead brought the country to the brink of a new civil war.

Tensions were running high in Zahle after members of Hizbullah attempted to expand the party's telecommunications network in the area on Sunday evening.

Residents of the city protested the move and temporarily blocked the road in the area.

The army soon intervened and set up checkpoints in the industrial zone and security forces deployed patrols in the city, which led to Hizbullah's withdrawal from the area.

There was an uproar in October 2011 when Hizbullah allegedly attempted to expand its telecommunications network in the Tarshish region on the outskirts of Zahle.

The residents thwarted the attempts and Telecommunications Ministry at the time denied the party was conducting any works in the region.

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