March 14 Calls for Arms-Free Sidon, Says 'Statelet' Cause of Violenceإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The March 14 alliance called on Sunday for announcing Sidon an arms-free city, saying the presence of an “illegitimate statelet” was the reason behind the violence in the southern city.
Following a large-scale meeting held by around 170 politicians, academics and journalists at MP Bahia Hariri's residence in Majdalyoun, the alliance said in a statement read by former lawmaker Fares Soaid that Sidon's and Lebanon's wounds were “still bleeding.”
It is the role of the state to heal them, said Soaid, who is the March 14 general-secretariat coordinator.
He said the conferees, including Hariri and al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora, called for announcing Sidon a weapons-free city, where only the military's arms should have a presence.
They also rejected the phenomenon of so-called Resistance Brigades in Sidon.
“The source of the violence and strife in Lebanon is the presence of a statelet,” they said, adding that such an “unprecedented situation” is drawing “unacceptable violent retaliation.”
The statement was referring to Hizbullah, which the March 14 coalition has accused of being the source of the violent clashes between the army and Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir two weeks ago.
The gunbattles, which have left 18 soldiers and around 20 gunmen dead, were sparked after al-Asir's followers opened fire on an army checkpoint.
But March 14 officials say that al-Asir's growing frustration from Hizbullah's presence in apartments near his Bilal bin Rabah mosque in Abra were one of the reasons behind his militancy.
“We reject all counter-violence and counter-extremism,” they said in their statement.
The conferees considered the memo handed to President Michel Suleiman by Sidon MPs Hariri and Saniora as a “national memo.”
The memo asks for the referral of the case of the Sidon clashes to the Judicial Council and the prevention of all armed activities in the city.
It also calls for the removal of all political flags from the city and the closure of all offices belonging to “armed groups,” in reference to Hizbullah.
The conferees called on the Higher Relief Council to speed up the compensation to citizens whose properties were damaged in Sidon's clashes.
They also urged the judiciary to inform the public about the results of the investigation.
Soaid said the officials formed a "national committee" to follow up the decisions reached during the meeting.