Berri Lashes Out at Hariri after Libya Remarks

Speaker Nabih Berri replied to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s remarks about Libya’s absence from the Beirut summit, saying the “major harm was done to Lebanon forty years ago,” in reference to the disappearance of Shiite cleric Imam Moussa al-Sadr which is blamed on Libya.

“The absence of the Libyan delegation is not regretful, but the absence of the Lebanese delegation and the major harm done to Lebanon for over forty years is,” Berri was quoted as saying.

In remarks he made at the Arab Private Sector Forum, Hariri expressed regret for the absence of the Libyan delegation from the summit expected in the weekend, affirming that good ties with “Arab brothers” must prevail.

Berri's press office later issued a statement commenting on Hariri's remarks that the “rapprochement” between his al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement “has driven a lot of people mad.”

“This claim is totally baseless, and quite to the contrary, it is in the interest of Lebanon and all Lebanese to witness rapprochement between all Lebanese political forces and movements,” the statement added.

“But when we sense that this rapprochement is at our expense and at the expense of our rights and sacred causes, such as Imam al-Sadr's cause, ... our young men will perform their duty and they will not await an alliance or an understanding with anyone, no matter how superior or inferior their position might be,” Berri's statement said.

Berri also accused Hariri and the FPM of a “blatant attack on our sentiments and on the sentiments of all those who cherish Imam al-Sadr through insistence on inviting the Libyan regime which is totally not cooperating in this case.”

Libya had on Monday officially decided to boycott the summit, a day after AMAL Movement supporters removed Libyan flags and addressed insults to Libya near the summit's venue.

The summit that Lebanon is hosting this weekend has been marred by controversy days before delegates arrive.

Last week a debate erupted over whether Libya should be invited in a dispute that stems from the 1978 disappearance of Imam Moussa al-Sadr, the founder of the AMAL Movement now headed by Berri.

The cleric vanished on an official visit to the country when it was ruled by Moammar Gadhafi. The issue remains a longstanding sore point between the two countries, even though Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

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