Mansour Rejects Call for Protecting Syrian Rebels, Defense Council to Meet Thursdayإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour on Wednesday voiced rejection of a call by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly for the Lebanese authorities to provide protection for the members of the rebel Free Syrian Army who flee to Lebanon, as President Michel Suleiman called the Higher Defense Council to convene on Thursday to discuss the latest developments related to the Lebanese-Syrian border.
“Lebanon cannot heed such a request; it rather acts according to its interest, security situation and capabilities, and we cannot provide support to armed elements stationed in the Lebanese territory,” Mansour said in an interview on Al-Manar television.
During a meeting with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel on Tuesday, Connelly “recognized Lebanon’s efforts to provide assistance to Syrians fleeing the violence in their country and she encouraged the Lebanese government to continue its cooperation with the international community and provide for the humanitarian needs and safety of all Syrians who have fled to Lebanon, including dissenters and deserters,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement.
She noted the Lebanese government’s “right and responsibility to secure its borders, and called for the protection of all disarmed Syrians, including members of the Free Syrian Army.”
“We do not want another Camp Ashraf in Lebanon,” Mansour said, referring to an Iranian refugee camp in Iraq's Diyala province which is also the headquarters of the exiled People's Mujahedin of Iran.
Former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein welcomed the exiles to Iraq during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war and they have lived at the camp ever since.
“We do not want to create a security problem in Lebanon that exceeds our capabilities and violates our policy,” Mansour added.
“Offering a safe haven to armed elements is an unacceptable thing,” the foreign minister stressed.
Meanwhile, Al-Manar said the Higher Defense Council will discuss Thursday the issues of “tensions on the Lebanese-Syrian border, (Syrian) refugees, and the U.S. request for providing support to the Free Syrian Army.”
These developments come after the U.N. refugee agency said about 2,000 Syrians had fled to Lebanon in recent days, many from Homs and particularly its opposition stronghold of Baba Amr, which was stormed by Syrian troops last Thursday after a month of bombardment.
A large number have sought refuge in the Bekaa region with family members already living there.
Others headed from the Bekaa further north to the northern city of Tripoli or to the northern border area of Wadi Khaled, where the majority of the 7,058 Syrians registered in Lebanon as refugees are living.
On Sunday the Lebanese army arrested a group of Syrian gunmen who had entered Lebanese territory via the border town of al-Qaa, seizing a car and a large cache of weapons, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported.