Sunni leader says Hizbullah leading Lebanon into 'Syrian fire'

Reuters , Saturday 17 Aug 2013

Saad Al-Hariri accuses Hizbullah of endangering Lebanon after the Shia group's leader says he is ready to fight in Syria himself

Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician Saad Al-Hariri accused Hizbullah Saturday of dragging the country deeper into Syria's civil war after the Shia militant group's leader said he was ready to go to Syria himself to fight.

Al-Hariri, a former prime minister, was responding to a speech by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah who said that a car bomb in Shia southern Beirut would only redouble the group's military support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

"(Nasrallah's) speech takes Lebanon into deeper involvement in the Syrian fire," Al-Hariri tweeted. "It's a pity to squander the blood of the Lebanese in such a way."

The death toll from Thursday's car bomb, already the deadliest attack in Beirut since the 1975-1990 civil war, rose to 27 Saturday when the body of a six-year-old boy was found in the damaged ground floor of a nearby building.

Al-Hariri's father, Rafiq Al-Hariri, who also served as prime minister several times, was killed along with 21 others in a 2005 bombing. A UN-backed tribunal has indicted four Hizbullah members over the killing.

"What happened (on Thursday) was an ugly crime, but Hizbullah's war in Syria is a crime as well," Al-Hariri said, criticising Nasrallah for calling for restraint at home while reinforcing his commitment to the battle in Syria that has polarised Lebanon and sharply raised sectarian tensions.

Most Sunni Muslim Lebanese support the rebels battling to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam. Many Shia Lebanese support Al-Assad and Hizbullah's support in the neighbouring country has grown from a political to a full military role.

Hizbullah guerrillas led Al-Assad's fight to recapture the Syrian border town of Qusair in June from mainly Sunni rebels, and they have also fought in the city of Homs and near the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeinab south-east of Damascus.

Nasrallah said Friday the Syrian war was a battle against radical Sunni takfiri groups (fundamentalist Sunni militants), who he also blamed for Thursday's bombing.

Many Sunni jihadi fighters from Lebanon and other Arab countries have joined the fight against Al-Assad, and some have threatened retaliation in Lebanon unless Hizbullah withdraws from Syria.

The two-year conflict has killed 100,000 people inside Syria and the violence has spread across the Lebanese border, with rocket attacks in the Bekaa Valley, street fighting in the Mediterranean cities of Sidon and Tripoli, and bombings in Beirut.

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