Lebanese President Michel Sleiman warned Thursday that groups involved in the conflict in neighbouring Syria are endangering the peace and unity of his country, in a clear reference to Hezbollah.
“We cannot talk of independence if parties or groups ignore the state… and decide to cross the border and get involved in an armed conflict on the soil of a brother country and endanger national unity and civil peace,” Sleiman said.
The powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah says its fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is aimed at combatting Sunni extremists who are targeting Syria’s Shiite and Christian minorities.
Sleiman also appealed for “an immediate withdrawal” from the Syria conflict, which has killed more than 120,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes since it erupted in March 2011.
“The latest attacks show that the country is under the threat of dissension and terrorism,” he said in a speech on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Lebanon’s independence.
His remarks come two days after at least 25 people were killed and nearly 150 others wounded in a double suicide bomb attack on the Beirut embassy of Iran, which supports Hezbollah and backs the Assad regime.
Lebanon has been without a government for seven months over deep divisions between Hezbollah and parties opposed to its military action in Syria.
But it has stirred sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where many Sunnis back the Syrian armed uprising.
Sleiman also expressed concern that presidential elections scheduled for May 2014 will not take place, and called on Lebanon’s political parties to prevent the country from falling into a political “vacuum”.