Jumblatt: No Problem with Syrian Presence in Chouf for Strategic Purposes Only
Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said Wednesday that he had “no problem” with Syrian military reinforcements around the Druze-dominated Chouf mountain, provided they were for “strategic” purposes only, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
Any reports to the contrary, he added, were being circulated by unnamed “ghosts.”
Jumblatt made the comments to reporters after he and Information Minister Ghazi Aridi called on Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri to discuss the issue, said the paper.
Replying to a question about the “authenticity” of the reinforcements, the Chouf MP said: “I know nothing about this. There are ghosts talking about the matter, which I would rather not discuss. If strategic purposes call for Syrian troops to deploy in the Mountain, there is no problem and they are welcome,” the daily quoted him as saying.
But Syrian official had denied that Damascus employed army units in the area amid tension between the Syrian authorities and Jumblatt.
Jumblatt, said the Daily Star, recalled that his militiamen had fought alongside Syrian troops during the civil war “in the same trenches.”
The Druze leader, whose relations with Syria have been strained following his calls for re-examining relations with Syria, was asked whether he would visit Damascus soon.
“If I receive an invitation I will go, and if I don’t receive one I will not go,” he replied.
Referring to his one-hour meeting with Hariri, Jumblatt said the two men had discussed the situation in the region, and the importance of reaching a national consensus on current issues, said the paper.
Meanwhile, Hariri was quoted as saying that calls for Syria’s withdrawal were “inappropriate” under the current circumstances, especially with Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon in power.
“The Syrian presence is legitimate, temporary and necessary,” Hariri was quoted by the paper as telling Saudi newspaper Al-Jazeera.
“If we didn’t need the Syrians, they wouldn’t be in Lebanon.”
He maintained that the Syrian presence was “a positive factor for stability,” the paper quoted him as saying.
“For those who say that Syrians should have deployed in the Bekaa two years after the Taif Accord,” he added, “we shouldn’t forget that Israel should have pulled out from here according to UN Resolution 425.” – Albawaba.com