Syrian officials have denied that Damascus has deployed army units to the Druze-dominated Chouf mountain amid a rise of tension between Syrian and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt who voiced his opposition to Syrian military presence in Lebanon, according to the Lebanese broadcast channel (NBN).
Reports had said that Syrian army units were deployed in the mountain, southeast of Beirut, after Druze leader Walid Jumblatt strongly criticized on Friday leaders in Lebanon, without naming them, as "forces owned by Syria, forces of intelligence services who at every word make a mountain out of a molehill."
Jumblatt's remarks came during a rally of more than 20,000 people to mark the 1977 assassination of his father, Kamal Jumblatt, who was gunned down near a Syrian army checkpoint in the region, said AFP.
"We never considered this occasion an occasion for grudges or revenge. We have overcome this incident to assert the Lebanese, democratic, humanitarian, Arab message of Kamal Jumblatt," he said.
"We are not here to launch any campaign, and we will not launch any hostile or racist campaign against the Syrian Arab people," he added.
Syria is the main power broker in Lebanon where it maintains 35,000 troops in addition to intelligence agents. There are also hundreds of thousands of Syrian workers in Lebanon.
Jumblatt also said that "I don't think (my aim) is hostility toward Syria, and it won't be," the agency quoted him as saying.
"We are still on the beginning of the road of the Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian national confrontation to liberate southern Lebanon whether in peace or in war, and for the Palestinians to regain their rights," he said.
Damascus hosted Jumblatt in January, two months after declaring him persona non grata for saying Syria's troops in Lebanon were not needed throughout the country.
Jumblatt, formerly considered pro-Syrian, triumphed in legislative elections last year and leads a 16-member bloc in the 128-member parliament.
Meanwhile, a Syrian source called the Druze leader "unworthy" of Syria's attention, according to the Daily Star.
The source said Jumblatt had isolated himself "in his environment and from his community" in Syria.
"Jumblatt has isolated himself from nationalists and national feelings since he decided not to fight the Israelis" when they entered the Chouf in 1982, the source told the newspaper.
The source said Jumblatt was voicing his opposition to President Emile Lahoud due to the president's "non-sectarian and nationalist beliefs," said the paper.
The source asserted that while Jumblatt was attacking Syria, he wanted to maintain his relations with his community there, "disregarding the fact that such a community had rejected his statements to the Israeli press."
The source accused Jumblatt of changing his statements about Syria from "negative to positive to negative according to the media outlet and circumstances," sometimes switching positions during the same day, said the paper - Albawaba.com
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