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Saad Hariri proposes a road map to protect Lebanon

BEIRUT |, with agencies - July 18, 2014, 22h57
Photo: National News Agency
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri delivered on Friday evening a televised speech, broadcasted live from his residence in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in which he addressed attendees of several Iftars organized by the Future Movement, in BIEL in Beirut, and other Lebanese regions.
In his Friday's speech, Saad Hariri tackled the current situation in Lebanon: Presidential elections, new government, Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria, confronting terrorism, Syrian refugees and Parliamentary elections.

Here is the text of the speech he delivered. It was sent to us by Mr Hariri's press office.

"Dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of my speech in this blessed evening of the holy month of Ramadan, I have to recall the suffering of our brothers in Palestine, at the hands of an unjust and criminal occupation, while the international community is watching the aggression from a distance, content with asking for restraint without taking practical steps to stop the ongoing massacre against the Palestinian people.

The international community is morally and humanly responsible of covering Israel's crimes, from the siege of Gaza, to the settlement projects, as well as the plot to Judaize Jerusalem, and the attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Remaining silent on Israel's crimes and justifying its aggression against the Palestinian people will remove any hope in any peace initiative and open the way for new waves of violence, extremism and instability.

This is what drives us to renew the call for an immediate ending of the Israeli aggression, and for an international mechanism that enables the Palestinian people to establish its independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Dear brothers and sisters, year after year, we meet in the month of goodness, justice, love and faith, while many Arab nations, including Lebanon, are facing evil, injustice, intolerance and disbelieve.

However, you my good friends, the faithful and the patient in this country, are steadfast in your political, moral and religious belief in the values ​​of moderation, openness and tolerance, which are the real meanings of the holy month of Ramadan.

We will not stop, God willing, from gathering in this holy month, and praying for love and peace to prevail in your homes and the homes of all the Lebanese people.

Throughout the years, we used to say that Lebanon is in the eye of the storm and that the national responsibility requires from all officials and leaders to take the right steps that would protect national stability and coexistence.

Here we are, living to see a large part of the Arab world entering the eye of the storm, and witnessing a serious chapter of divisions and sectarian conflicts as well as the collapse of political and ideological systems that constituted throughout the years a fertile ground for discord, terrorism and civil war.

Objectivity and honesty impose on us to recognize that it would be difficult to isolate Lebanon fully from these risks and establish a political, economic and security fence that would protect the country from the surrounding storms, especially with the continued involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian war.

Nevertheless, national responsibility requires us not to surrender to this reality and consider the fall into the abyss an irreversible destiny.

The Lebanese do not need a miracle to protect themselves from the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world. The Lebanese need a road map that gives priority to the national interest and stability at the expense any other interests or loyalties.

In our view, the road map to protect Lebanon is based on the following:

1 - Electing a new president of the Republic and ending the presidential vacancy as a priority ahead of any other national task.

2 - Forming a new government at the image of the current government, that would work with the new prime minister to conduct the current stage, face the impending events and organize parliamentary elections.

3 - Hezbollah's withdrawal from the Syrian war.

4 - Preparing a comprehensive national plan to confront terrorism in all its forms and designations. Here we must emphasize that confronting terrorism is a national responsibility that lies on the shoulders of the state and is not the responsibility of a particular party or sect.

5 – Reaching consensus on an official emergency plan to cope with the crisis of the Syrian refugees to Lebanon, and mobilize all efforts of our friends and brothers to save Lebanon from drowning in the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, on the security, social and economic levels.

6 – Conducting parliamentary elections as scheduled by the law and avoiding any form of extension of the mandate of Parliament.

Yes, we want the parliamentary elections on time, and we don‎’t want to extend the term of parliament, but the key for the parliamentary elections is to elect a President of the Republic as soon as possible.

Because parliamentary elections without a President of the Republic mean that the government would be considered as a resigned one, and it would be impossible to form a new government because real questions exist about who will do the parliamentary consultations and who will sign the decree forming the government in the absence of the President of the Republic.

In addition, what do parliamentary elections mean in the absence of a president? They mean a parliament without a speaker of the parliament.

Because which deputy is going to elect a speaker of the parliament without being able to elect a President of the Republic?

Which simply means that Lebanon will enter a scenario of total collapse of the state. Sure, some external parties want this scenario for Lebanon, but we do not want to grant them this wish. This is not audacity; this is the truth as it is!

Dear brothers and sisters in all of Lebanon, when the Lebanese get accustomed to the absence of the President and the absence of his picture, role and responsibility, this is a danger threatening the presidency. It is an unacceptable absence of the symbol represented by the only Christian President in the Islamic and Arab East. It stabs the basis of the formula on which Lebanon was established and through which the Lebanese agreed that the discussion about the presidency would be among leaders, experts and competent persons in the Maronite community.

Thus came our openness towards the Christian political and spiritual leaders, to avoid falling into the void, and search for common denominators that will help the country meet the challenges and risks, and to approach the various national issues through opening new horizons for cooperation, in order to find solutions regardless of how the presidential issue will end.

I say to all the leaders: Lebanon is more important than all of us. Any attempt to infringe the formula of national entente and the Taif agreement is a step into the unknown that will only add to the current political reality, more complexity, division, and void.

In all dialogues, our position is that we do not have any veto on anyone, that we participate in all the parliamentary sessions and secure the quorum whatever the outcome is, and that during this tough stage we are a helping factor for the election of the President, not the determining factor.

The determining factor in our view is the consensus among Christians on a candidate, and we will accept him without any reservation.

Thankfully, our dialogue was transparent, and we informed the Patriarch and of course our allies about the details of our dialogues, and our approach to the presidential election. The basis is that we, like the Patriarch, consider the vacancy as the biggest threat to Lebanon, its democratic regime and existence.

However, the truth is what we cannot any longer sit and watch the permanent disabling of quorum under the pretext of lack of Christian consensus. This is a threat to the basis of the existence of Lebanon, which means the basis of the presence of Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, which means the basis of the existence of the state of Lebanon.

We will start consultations with our allies in March 14, and dialogues with the different political forces outside March 14, in order to find a way to end the presidential vacancy as soon as possible, to be able to continue the subsequent constitutional steps, from electing a parliament to forming a government and restoring the normal functioning of the state and its institutions.

Keeping the Presidency hostage while waiting for external changes betting on a return of the Syrian regime means gambling with the national formula and the rules of parity consecrated by the Taef Accord, to which we find no substitute regardless of the change of circumstances and equations.

When we talk about the Taef Accord, and say we support it, we do so not because Martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri contributed to reaching it to put an end to the war in Lebanon, but because this accord is the basis of our perception of Lebanon.

Our perception of Lebanon is based on rejecting the sectarian and confessional census for the benefit of coexistence and partnership regardless of the numbers. May God have mercy on the one who said “We stopped counting!” May God have mercy on Rafik Hariri.

Those who are deluding the Lebanese with plans to abolish the Taef Accord should look at the Arab countries around us that are inflamed with sectarian, confessional and racial wars. They would see that all the political solutions or the ways out of war there are based on the philosophy of the Taef Accord, the philosophy of true partnership regardless of numbers, majorities or minorities.

It is not a coincidence that those who adhere to the Taef Accord are the March 14 Forces; the coalition that goes beyond confessions, and whose basic criteria is national interest. This is the proposed model for all the countries around us.

Dear friends, in the past days and weeks, we all lived, and especially you who are in Beirut, periods of anxiety and a feeling of instability as a result of terrorist acts that didn’t achieve their targets thanks to the awareness of the ministries of Defense and Interior and the official security apparatus. On this occasion, I want to express my appreciation, gratitude and support to them for their role in protecting civil peace and uncovering the terrorist networks and those behind them.

Once again, I reiterate: the State is sole responsible of protecting the citizens and raiding the nests of terrorism and crime, and this is what the Lebanese Army, the Internal Security Forces, the General Security and all the judicial and security forces are achieving successfully and effectively.

All the Lebanese regardless of their sects and regions are suffering from terrorism, and fighting terrorism is everyone’s responsibility, under the roof of the state and with its tools. Otherwise, countering terrorism would become a sectarian confrontation between cells belonging to Al-Qaeda and ISIS and other terrorist groups, on one side, and Hezbollah, on the other side, which became an inseparable part of the fight in Syria and defending Bashar Assad. Assad who chose to blame others for his evilness and was sworn in for his fake term as the Nero of this age, because he was sworn in to stay in office at the expense of Syria’s destruction and the killing and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

It would be a good thing for Hezbollah to be part of a Lebanese national project led by the State to face terrorism. But having Hezbollah as part of a triangle led by Iran that includes Al-Maliki’s state in Iraq and Assad’s state in Syria is a great burden on Lebanon and the safety of the Lebanese people. The latest feature of this burden is the exchange of security and military services between Hezbollah and the army of the Syrian regime, at the expense of the Lebanese sovereignty and the safety of the Lebanese, as we witness daily aerial Syrian bombardment of the Lebanese territories under the pretext of supporting the confrontations of Hezbollah in the border areas.

Brothers and sisters, any organization that pushes the youth to death is a terrorist and an enemy of Lebanon. The Sunnis in Lebanon are concerned, just as the rest of the Lebanese, in fighting this problem, preventing its spread and refusing its slogans. Any other talk about the existence of an incubator for terrorist cells among the Sunnis is suspicious and rejected. Such talk aims at justifying the insistence to participate in the Syrian war.

I want to be frank and very clear: Some are trying to forge the achievements of the security plan and portray it as a plan against the Sunnis in Lebanon. Some violations, which we refuse, were made by some security apparatus and are being tackled.

My position is clear: Any random or unjustified arrest is totally rejected and any violation of the political and humanitarian rights of citizens is also rejected. And any official who commits such violations would be harming the security apparatus and the people-state relationship and must be held accountable.

But let everyone knows that anyone who committed an offense against Tripoli and its people and contributed to harming the city will be prosecuted no matter how long he tries to hide behind the events in Syria and Iraq.

Those who are pressing to release the perpetrators are exposing their role in these incidents. (This time I will not give names because I think that you and especially the people of Tripoli know whom I am talking about).

We, with all those who love Rafik Hariri and the Future Movement, in Beirut, Tripoli, Akkar, Menniyeh, and Dennieh; with all the allies and friends in Zghorta, Batroun, Koura, Mount Lebanon, Iqlim al-Kharoub, Keserwan and Jbeil, in the Bekaa, from Ersal to Majdel Anjar, in Sidon, to Chebaa, and Urkoub, all of us will always remain the strong barrier that protects Lebanon from terrorism and its cells. We will not hesitate to raise our voice and call to keep Lebanon neutral regarding the surrounding struggles especially those taking place in Syria and Iraq.

If you want to fight ISIS and Al-Qaeda and stop the spread of terrorism to Lebanon, then let us agree on a road map that would lead us to the election of a new President and get out of the tunnel of discord and chaos.

Thus we would be offering our country a chance to win the war on terrorism just as we won in Nahr al-Bared. We will give ourselves and all the Lebanese a chance to take care of the social issues and economic concerns and find solutions to daily hardships like water, electricity…

For two years we have been calling, demanding and pressing for the withdrawal of Hezbollah from Syria. Unfortunately, Hezbollah thought that it would rescue the Assad regime, but the truth is that no one can save the Assad regime. Our stance stems from the fact that Hezbollah’s involvement in this war is a crazy project that is attracting similar craziness to our country and regrettably, we are seeing it daily in the form of terrorism, suicide bombers, fear, economic paralysis and social crisis.

We will remain the voice of reason and we are sure that reason will prevail in the end because the Lebanese tried this madness for 20 years after which they returned to reason. Since then, the Lebanese did not and will not allow any mad project to prevail over the project of reason, the project of Rafik Hariri, the project of the state, of real Lebanon, of complete partnership between all the Lebanese, of moderation and parity between the Muslims and Christians, the civil and democratic project in the interest of the Lebanese citizens from all confessions and regions. It is the project that aims at solving the real economic, social, educational, health, environmental and educational problems. Not the project that exports our citizens so that they die in wars on the lands of others, or turn them into victims in the service of the wars of others on our land.

In the end, we renew our faith in the ability of the Lebanese to face the challenges. You are the real army defending Lebanon’s unity and coexistence. You are the force of moderation that will protect Lebanon from extremism, terrorism and senseless wars. You are the building force that will revive Lebanon, just as Martyr Premier Rafik Hariri wanted it.

Once again, I wish you a blessed Ramadan and hope to see you soon in Lebanon."
#SaadHariri, #Hezbollah, #Syria, #Palestine, #Lebanon
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