Lebanese pro-Hariri MP denies Syria arms running

AFP , Thursday 6 Dec 2012

Lebanese member of Saudi- and Western-backed Future Movement denies wiretaps released by pro-Damascus Lebanese outlets that he is involved in running guns to Syria's armed opposition

Saad al-Hariri
Lebanese opposition leader Saad al-Hariri ( Photo: Reuters)

A Lebanese member of parliament close to opposition leader Saad al-Hariri insisted on Thursday that wiretaps appearing to implicate him in arms deliveries to Syrian rebels had been distorted.

The wiretaps "are the biggest political and moral scandal," Okab Sakr, a leading member of the former premier's mainly Sunni Muslim Future Movement, told a news conference in Istanbul broadcast by Lebanese television.

"You can take them to any laboratory in the world to verify their authenticity," said Sakr, playing journalists what he said were the unredacted versions of what he had actually said.

Recordings released last week by pro-Damascus Lebanese outlets Al-Akhbar and OTV raised a storm in Lebanon, which has been deeply divided by the more than 20-month conflict in its larger neighbour.

Lebanon's governing coalition is largely sympathetic to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad but the Saudi- and Western-backed opposition is implacably opposed.

Sakr on Thursday played some excepts of his conversations, that he said removed the distortions of the versions published by the pro-Damascus media.

In one clip, a rebel commander identified as Abu Noman could be heard asking for weapons.

"As far as weapons are concerned, I cannot do anything... I can't provide you with any weapons," Sakr was heard to say.

Sakr said Abu Noman contacted him in connection with the kidnapping of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in Syria in May.

"The kidnappings have affected the revolution... We want to find a solution that is humane and ethical," Sakr could be heard saying in recordings he aired at the press conference.

The MP also pointed to another audio excerpt that he said had been taken out of context.

"We want to increase the quantities," he could be heard saying. Sakr said he had been referring to humanitarian aid, not weapons.

Sakr is one of the Future bloc's few prominent Shiite Muslim members. Both he and Hariri are currently based outside Lebanon for fear of assassination.

Lebanon was dominated politically and military by Syria for almost 30 years, until Saad al-Hariri's father Rafiq was assassinated in 2005. International outcry over the killing prompted Syria to pull out its troops.

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