Hariri: We Will Remain with Army, Every Outlaw Must be Dealt with in Same Manner

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June 24, 2013 By Naharnet

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday stressed that al-Mustaqbal movement “will remain with the army,” saying the military institution did the right thing by confronting Islamist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir.

“The army offered major sacrifices and we must all embrace it,” Hariri said in an interview on Future TV.

“We in the al-Mustaqbal movement will remain with the army, no matter what they are saying and no matter how much they try and our project will remain the state,” he stressed.

“Let no one try to remove us from this path and we will remain firm and steadfast in this direction,” he went on to say.

Hariri revealed that he has been communicating with Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji “amid this difficult situation” and saluted President Michel Suleiman “who followed up continuously on matters,” noting that “his sovereign stances protect Lebanon and the Lebanese.”

“The main problem in Lebanon is the proliferation of weapons in the hands of armed groups and this problem will lead to confrontations in the country,” Hariri pointed out.

“We will continue to say that arms are the main problem in the country,” he added.

Addressing protesters who took to the streets in solidarity with al-Asir, Hariri said: “Some people are seeking problems and when they block the roads they are blocking their own roads and this is not a solution.”

“The solution is not in forming groups such as Asir's group to confront the state,” he stressed.

“Perhaps the method (of dealing with al-Asir) was harsh but anything against the state must be dealt with in the same manner and no one is bigger than his country, and if anyone believes the opposite, a day will come and they will ask the state for help and protection,” Hariri noted.

“Today, the army made major sacrifices and it's about time we extended the the mandate of the army commander and to do something for the army instead of only praising it,” he said.

He called on Sidon's residents to be “patient,” hoping the southern city will restore its position.

Sixteen troops were killed and more than 50 wounded in clashes between the army and gunmen loyal to Islamist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir on Sunday and Monday.

A source close to Asir said at least five of his supporters had also been killed.

On Monday afternoon, the army stormed Asir's security zone in the Sidon suburb of Abra and arrested a number of gunmen as the Islamist cleric fled to an unknown destination.

Abra's clashes erupted when al-Asir's supporters surrounded an army checkpoint in the area, where a vehicle transporting other supporters of the cleric had been stopped.

After the armed men attacked the troops with gunfire, the army fired back.

Abra is home to a mosque where Asir used to lead the main weekly prayers on Fridays. The sheikh had claimed that Hizbullah uses apartments in Abra to keep him under surveillance.

He also said the Lebanese army has provided cover to Hizbullah, whose members are fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops against rebels.

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