Higher Defense Council Expresses Relief over Security Situation

The Higher Defense Council on Thursday expressed “relief” over the security situation in the country and decided to keep its resolutions confidential, following an emergency meeting at the Baabda Palace that tackled the issue of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the influx of refugees and gunmen from Syria.

The council “was briefed by the heads of the security agencies about the results of the security missions performed in several Lebanese regions and the border areas, expressing relief over the general security situation,” council spokesman Maj. Gen. Adnan Merheb announced after the meeting.

The meeting was called by President Michel Suleiman on Wednesday and comes 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.

Also on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour 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.

“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.

Al-Manar reported on Wednesday that the Higher Defense Council would discuss the issues of “tensions on the Lebanese-Syrian border, (Syrian) refugees, and the U.S. request for providing support to the Free Syrian Army.”

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 7,058 Syrians have registered in Lebanon as refugees but that number is expected to rise with the new influx of arrivals.

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.

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