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Lebanon's Al-Hariri says Al-Assad collapse 'inevitable'

Saad Al-Hariri, Beirut's opposition leader, blames the Syrian regime for many assassinations of Lebanese politicians, including his father

Ahram Online, Reuters, AFP, Friday 15 Feb 2013
Lebanon
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks via a video link from Paris during a ceremony to mark the eighth anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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Lebanese opposition leader Saad Al-Hariri predicted on Thursday the downfall of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, whom he accuses of assassinating his father in a massive bomb attack in 2005.

"The regime of Bashar Al-Assad will inevitably go down. And its collapse will be loud not only in Syria but across the Arab world," Hariri said, speaking by a video link from Riyadh to mark the eighth anniversary of his father's assassination.

Rafik Al-Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon, was killed by an explosion detonated near his motorcade in Beirut. In December, Syria issued arrest warrants against Al-Hariri and a close political ally for "terrorist crimes" of financing and arming rebels fighting Al-Assad.

Al-Hariri, who lives outside Lebanon because of concerns for his security, said he will join his supporters in Lebanon during the parliamentary election expected in the summer.

Lebanon faces Syrian refugee crisis

Lebanon, where Syria still wields significant influence, is deeply divided over the Syrian revolt and fears that the sectarian civil war that has claimed nearly 70,000 lives, according to a United Nations estimate, could spill over into its smaller neighbour.

The UNHCR representative in Lebanon Ninette Kelley said last week that the country should consider setting up transit centres to absorb the waves of refugees escaping daily regime-rebel clashes in war-torn Syria through establishing formal refugee camps.

Lebanon hosts almost 300,000 Syrian refugees, hoping to absorb them in homes and communities, a number which is currently growing by 3,000 a day.

UNHCR increased registration of new waves of refugees to 40,000 each month, but even that may not keep pace with new arrivals.

This situation leaves international humanitarian agencies and local authorities struggling to provide for them. Medecins Sans Frontieres, a French aid group, issued a report that accuses Lebanon of not providing sufficient medical support for Syrian refugees.

The assassination of Wissam Al-Hassan

Last October, a deadly car bombing led to the death of almost eight people and wounded another 78 in Lebanon's Christian district of Ashrafieh, eastern Beirut.

This was the most high-profile car bombing since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and Rafik Al-Hariri's assassination in 2005.

General Wissam Al-Hassan, a senior commander in the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, was among the dead.

Such incident caused a degree of deterioration in Lebanese-Syrian relations due to Al-Hassan's history of opposition to the ruling regime in Damascus.  

 Al-Hassan suspected the Syrian regime of murdering Al-Hariri. The grey-moustachioed general, 47, a Sunni Muslim, had sent his wife and children to Paris because he "knew he was a target," a Lebanese opposition leader hostile to Al-Assad’s regime told AFP.

His master stroke was the 9 August arrest, in which the Internal Security Forces (ISF) played a central role, of former Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha, suspected of planning attacks in Lebanon's north at the behest of Syrian intelligence official Ali Mamlouk.

Damascus had already been the suspect, in Al-Hassan's mind, not only for Al-Hariri's assassination in 2005 but also for the series of murders over the following three years of anti-Syria figures in Lebanon. His ISF waged a campaign seeking to arrest the killers.

Protesters blocked roads in Beirut, Sidon in the south, Tripoli in the north and the Bekaa Valley in the east. In some cases, they burned tyres.

Soon after the bombing, Syria condemned what it called a "terrorist, cowardly" attack.

But both Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, the influential Druze leader, accused the Syrian president of being behind the bombing.

 

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