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Monday, July 03, 2006

Jumblatt: Syria 'exporting Al-Qaeda'

BEIRUT (Daily Star of Lebanon): Prominent Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt lashed out at Damascus on Sunday, saying he "feared the current Syrian regime is trying to turn Lebanon into another Iraq by exporting Al-Qaeda fighters into the country."Jumblatt, who is the head of the Progressive Socialist Party and a member of the anti-Syrian March 14 Forces, said that Syrian President Bashar Assad had warned that some members of the terrorist Al-Qaeda group "have been fleeing Syria toward Lebanon."

Jumblatt said: "When Assad spoke of Syria pursuing Al-Qaeda members, leading them to flee toward Lebanon, this reminded me of what is going on in Iraq, and the Al-Qaeda members fleeing Syria toward Iraq and killing Iraqis and causing chaos."

Assad had given an interview published last Monday in pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat - an interview which Jumblatt described as a "long, repetitive and boring conversation."

"Assad says that he has security fears?" asked Jumblatt. "Well, I say take your security fears away from Lebanon. The further these fears are, the more comfortable we will feel in Lebanon."

Jumblatt, who said he had cut off his relations with the Syrian regime after Syria pushed to extend Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term in 2004, also advised Assad not to interfere in Palestinian internal affairs.

"Let the Palestinians sort their own things out. [Assad] is trying to divide Hamas, and stop the dialogue between Hamas and Fatah," said Jumblatt.

He addressed the issue of the occupied Shebaa Farms, saying Syria has to set things right, acknowledge that the territory is Lebanese and demarcate the borders with Lebanon.

"Why is he [Assad] refusing to demarcate the borders?" asked Jumblatt, before answering his own question: "This is

only to stall for more time, but eventually he will have to agree on demarcating the borders with us."

Jumblatt said that "if Assad has a clear conscience then he has nothing to fear from the ongoing international investigations," into the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Jumblatt is one of many Lebanese politicians who accuse the Syrian regime of having a hand in the murder.

As for the Palestinian refugees' situation in Lebanon, Jumblatt said that they should be granted civil rights and better standards of living should be provided to them.

"I have a proposition which I will deliver to the March 14 Forces soon, and it is to donate money to the Palestinian people," Jumblatt said.

He responded to a speech on Friday by Hizbullah second-in-command Sheikh Naim Qassem, saying that the current Cabinet is the best manifestation of national unity.

Qassem had said the Cabinet did not represent all the Lebanese because it lacked FPM representatives.

"If the Free Patriotic Movement is not represented in the Cabinet, then it is represented by its head MP Michel Aoun in the national dialogue, which is larger than the Cabinet itself," responded Jumblatt.

Aoun has been calling for the Cabinet to step down for a more capable one that would "work on true reform."

Pro-Hizbullah Minister Tarrad Hamade said Sunday that Hizbullah's call for the Cabinet to change doesn't necessarily mean toppling it as Aoun asks.

"Hizbullah has been saying that if there is a door for a national, broad representation in the government then we prefer it, while Aoun is calling for toppling the government," he said.
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