Assad slams Lebanon foes, warns of strife

DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad has snapped at anti-Syria Lebanese groups, accusing them of complicity with Israel in the war against Hezbollah.

In a speech Tuesday commenting on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 which stopped 33 days of military confrontations that wreaked havoc in Lebanon, Assad made it a point to brand as "traitors" the so-called "March 14" gathering of multi-sectarian Lebanese groups opposed to Damascus.


The gathering, which led anti-Syria demonstrations following the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, helped force Syria to quit Lebanon two months later.

Assad accused his Lebanese opponents of having encouraged Israel to wage war on pro-Syria Hezbollah in order "to boost their political stance" on the international level.

"There will be no national support for those (groups)... What is happening today in Lebanon is tantamount to what happened in May 1983 when Lebanese forces collaborating with Israel failed to strike at Palestinian and Lebanese resistance," he said.

Assad, in a veiled incitement for civil war in Lebanon, said the role of anti-Damascus groups is to "salvage the Israeli government" which was embarrassed by its defeat at Hezbollah's hands.


"They will do that either by provoking strife in Lebanon to move the crisis from inside Israel to the Lebanese scene or by forcing the disarmament of Hezbollah's resistance," Assad said.

The Syrian president said 1701 is positive in terms of stopping the war and the killing of innocent Lebanese civilians, but was unjust in holding Hezbollah responsible for it.

Assad, whose country has been strictly observing a disengagement agreement with Israel since 1973, lashed out at Arab countries which criticized Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers that sparked the war, saying "those who did not make war cannot claim to be peace guides."

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