Mashnouq Slams Resistance, Says Arms to be Removed of Political Equation

Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq lashed out at the resistance on Tuesday, saying that the arms of Hizbullah should be removed from the country's political equation.

“I believe that we surpassed the period of the resistance. It became a regional power that even the Lebanese don't have the decision whether to use it or not,” Mashnouq said in an interview with the Saudi al-Watan newspaper.

He pointed out that the dispute over the arms of the resistance requires a “wide political consensus, which isn't available yet.”

“It's important that we differentiate between the strategic and regional power... which will be the core of any upcoming dialogue,” the minister told his interviewer.

Mashnouq explained that the strategic arsenal should be used to confront Israel while the regional arsenal is linked to Iran.

Asked if the security plans implemented in the northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley could be enforced in other regions, the official ruled out such a move.

“Arms are spreading in some areas in Lebanon, in particular the south, but other than that security is slowly returning to the country.”

He pointed out that “security will be implemented also in Beirut's southern suburbs according to agreements (with different factions) and not through a simple plan.”

“There are guarantees that the arms (of Hizbullah) will not be used against any Lebanese.”

In April, a security plan was implemented in Tripoli in an attempt to put an end to the clashes that frequently erupt between the city's rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

It was then implemented in the Bekaa region, with the security forces cracking down on gunmen, car theft gangs, and other outlaws.

On the conflict in the neighboring country Syria, Mashnouq said that “only one group participated in the ongoing conflict.”

“It's a losing battle.”

The March 14 official said that the cabinet is seeking to unify its endeavors regarding the threats imposed by the high surge in Syrian refugee numbers.

He said when asked if Hizbullah could be sued over its crimes in Syria that “the Lebanese government isn't the side concerned with such an act.”

Hizbullah's involvement in Syria's spiraling conflict has been condemned by the Syrian opposition, which views it as a "declaration of war," and by Lebanese opponents of the Shiite movement, who fear Lebanon may be dragged into Syria's conflict.

On the Saudi detainees in Lebanon, Mashnouq considered that “the ties with Saudi Arabia are very important.”

“In few months the cases of Saudis arrested in Lebanon will be resolved.”

However, he noted that “the cases of those who were detained on accusations linked to Fatah al-Islam were dissociated as they will face trial on charges of terror and murder.”

Concerning a decision by Saudi authorities to lift a travel ban to Lebanon after the security situation improved in the country, Mashnouq hailed the decision.

“All that Saudis are asking for is security and peace in Lebanon,” he remarked.

The minister said that “no one will assault any Saudi national, intentionally at least.”

“I will personally guarantee the political and security situation in the country,” he added.

Several Gulf states, including Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have repeatedly issued travel advisories, warning their citizens against visiting Lebanon due to the security chaos.



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