Gemayel Invites Political Authority to 'Step Down'

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Kataeb party leader MP Sami Gemayel has called on “Lebanon's authority to step down” after a rally to celebrate the army's eastern border victory against Islamic State jihadists was called off, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday.

“Day after day, this authority proves its inability, failure and complicity, and day by day the need for its departure increases in order to save the free national decision and restore national sovereignty and establish the state's reference,” said Gemayel in an interview to the daily.

He added lamenting “the cancellation of a popular celebration of the Lebanese army's victory,” adding that “the political authority is depriving the army and Lebanese people of the moral and national enjoyment of victory and sacrifices.”

“The official argument that talked about technical reasons is not suitable for a country that has the capacity and potential to organize such a celebration. As for the fear of security breaches, it is part of the continuous attempts to hit the morale of the army and to show it as unable to control the security of the celebration,” added the Kataeb chief.

Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil was the first politician to call for such a celebration before his invitation was officially endorsed by the defense and tourism ministers who also belong to the FPM.

Defense Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf and Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian held a joint press conference to invite the Lebanese to take part in the Thursday rally but on Tuesday the defense and tourism ministries issued a statement saying the celebration was “postponed” after “consultations with the three presidents” and for “purely logistical reasons.”

Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported Wednesday that the event was mainly called off to avoid “conflicting stances” from President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on the 2014 Arsal clashes, the probe that Aoun has ordered into the kidnap of troops and policemen that year, and Hizbullah's role in the country.

“Some reports also said that there were fears that the rally could come under a terrorist attack, not to mention that the participants would have come from different and rival political forces and bringing them together in one place during this period would have been a dangerous move,” the daily added, noting that the Army Command was also not enthusiastic about the event seeing as the families of the slain troops are still grieving over their sons.

The developments come after Lebanon recovered the bodies of servicemen abducted and executed by the Islamic State group as part of a Hizbullah-led ceasefire agreement.

The ceasefire followed separate but simultaneous anti-IS offensives by the Lebanese and Syrian armies and Hizbullah on both sides of the Lebanese-Syrian border.

President Aoun, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declared victory over the IS group in the wake of the assaults.

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