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Lebanon slams ‘plot’ to embroil country in war

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army warned yesterday that a plot was afoot to embroil the country in the 26-month conflict in neighbouring Syria, as deadly clashes between Damascus supporters and opponents inside Lebanon multiply. “The army command... calls on citizens to be wary of plots aimed at taking Lebanon backwards and dragging it into an absurd war,” a statement said, adding that it would give an “armed response to any armed action”. “The army command has been trying for several months to work firmly, determinedly and patiently to prevent Lebanon being turned into a battlefield for regional conflicts and to prevent any spillover of the events in Syria,” it said. “But in recent days, some groups have seemed determined to stoke security tensions... against the backdrop of the political divisions in Lebanon over military developments in Syria.” Although Lebanon has officially adopted a position of neutrality in Syria’s war, its people are sharply divided with Shiite Muslims backing President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and Sunnis the rebellion. The army urged “citizens to express their political views on events in Lebanon and Syria by peaceful and democratic means and not to be driven by groups wanting to use violence as a means to achieve their ends”.

It said it would “spare no effort to prevent innocent people from paying the price for political designs aimed at destroying Lebanon”. The statement was the strongest from the Lebanese army since the uprising against Assad’s rule erupted in March 2011. It came a day after soldiers came under fire in the northern city of Tripoli, as well as its flashpoint districts of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh. The two neighbourhoods have witnessed frequent clashes linked to the Syrian conflict, and on each occasion the army has sought to impose a ceasefire. On Wednesday night, two armed men, one of them a Syrian, were killed in a shootout with the army at the entrance of the town of Arsal, near the border with Syria, the military said. Arsal, home to Sunnis who support the Syrian uprising, is a conduit for rebel fighters, their weapons and refugees across the border with the war-torn country. On Thursday, one person was killed and several others wounded in clashes in the heart of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second- biggest city. It came after the public intervention of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement alongside Assad’s troops in the battle for the border town of Qusayr which culminated in its recapture on Wednesday and deepened political divisions. — AFP

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This article was published on 07/06/2013