BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Lebanese political circles were in an uproar Monday over the arrival of a Palestinian engineering instructor, deported from the United States.
The speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Shia leader Nabih Berri, criticized the Lebanese authorities for allowing the plane to land and demanded that U.S. ambassador Vincent Battle be summoned to the Foreign Ministry and informed that the deportation of Ramzi al-Najjar to Lebanon on Saturday was unacceptable.
Berri suggested the incident was a rehearsal to encourage Israel in deporting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Lebanon.
A corporate jet hired by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service landed at Beirut International Airport with al-Najjar aboard after he was first refused entry by Italy, then by Bahrain. The plane, began its odyssey Thursday at a small airport at Gainesville, Fla., spent 25 hours on the ground at Rome, and then, when Bahrain authorities changed their mind about receiving al-Najjar, headed for Beirut. It was on the ground there for 14 minutes before taking off for Dubai.
Al-Najjar, formerly an engineering instructor at the University of South Florida, was deported after being jailed by the INS having been accused of connections with the Palestinian militant organization Islamic Jihad. He has denied any such connections.
Berri called for an immediate investigation to determine how a U.S. plane, rented by the U.S. immigration authorities could "storm Beirut airport, dumps its load and take off as if nothing happened."
Transportation Minister Najib Mikati explained that a preliminary investigation indicated it was "a civil plane on a transit flight from Rome that landed in Beirut and continued its way to Dubai."
Mikati said the plane landed and took off according to regulations and that al-Najjar was carrying an entry visa for Lebanon.