Hariri to Arrive in Syria for Meeting with Assad
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri will visit Syria Thursday to meet with President Bashar Assad, in a bid to regain stature he lost in a turf war with President Emile Lahoud over last week's mass arrests of anti-Syrian activists, said AFP.
Lahoud, long known for his close ties to Damascus, on Monday pushed a bill through Parliament allowing the state's general prosecutor to stretch police detentions to four days.
The move marked a severe defeat for Hariri, who receives lukewarm backing from Damascus, and others enraged by last week's roundup of Lebanon's anti-Syria opposition.
More than 200 anti-Syrian Christians were seized in the army's surprise crackdown on political parties and organizations looking to get rid of the thousands of Syrian troops who have been stationed in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Another 19 anti-Syrian Christian activists received sentences Tuesday for "belonging to dissolved groups" as part of the Lebanese army's crackdown, court sources said Wednesday.
Assad had felt free to applaud Lahoud's strongman tactics after Lebanon's Parliament blinked, with an official endorsement of Lahoud Tuesday in Syria's official Tishrin newspaper.
AFP quoted Lebanese newspapers as reporting Wednesday that Lebanon's army commander and Lahoud ally Michael Suleiman met with Assad the day before.
JUMBLATT SAYS GOVERNMENT MOUNTED ‘BLOODLESS COUP’ AGAINST CONSTITUTION
The Daily Star newspaper reported Thursday that Druze leader Walid Jumblatt blasted the country’s political establishment on Wednesday, saying it had mounted a “bloodless coup” against the Constitution and replaced a parliamentary democracy with totalitarian rule.
The Druze leader also denied he had accepted an invitation for lunch with Lahoud next week, saying: “There’s nothing officially set yet.”
The Presidential Palace had announced in a statement that Lahoud would host Jumblatt for lunch on August 23, and political sources said the invitation was relayed by Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed.
It was not clear why publicly Jumblatt was wavering, but the paper said that “perhaps his planned trip to Syria for a meeting with Assad next Tuesday will push through a truce.”
The Chouf MP’s remarks followed an hour-long meeting with Hariri shortly after the latter’s talks with Lahoud and Speaker Nabih Berri.
Jumblatt appeared unconvinced that the luncheon had succeeded in eliminating political strains, said the paper.
“I do not wish to get into the subject of lunches … Lunch is not the issue. The issue is what happened in Parliament on Monday,” Jumblatt said in reference to the House’s endorsement of amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law, which saw MPs admitting they voted against their convictions on the changes demanded by Lahoud.
“It was a bloodless coup against the Constitution and against the Taif Accord. We have to carefully examine what happened as we will enter, or more accurately, we have moved to a (totalitarian) system of rule, which is a presidential-intelligence service mix,” Jumblatt said from Hariri’s residence.
This, he said, has “shaken domestic and foreign confidence in (Lebanon’s) democratic system.”
He said that while he understood Hariri’s motives for voting against his own beliefs, he still viewed the stand of the premier, his political ally, as “objectionable.” – Albawaba.com
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