BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s main Sunni Muslim political party pleaded with the presidency on Tuesday to prevent “state collapse”, blaming the Shi‘ite Hezbollah group for dragging the country into the war in neighboring Syria.
Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militants are openly fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he battles a 27-month-old Sunni-led revolt. Inter-communal violence has spread to religiously-mixed Lebanese cities and border towns.
“Hezbollah is serving Syria and Iran at the expense of the Lebanese,” ex-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told reporters. He said President Michel Suleiman should launch an initiative “to stop the state’s collapse and give the Lebanese hope”.
Siniora, head of the Future Movement that is part of the “March 14” coalition opposed to Syrian influence in Lebanon, said March 14 had sent a memorandum to Suleiman calling for the deployment of the army on the northern border with Syria, and suggesting a role for United Nations peacekeepers there.
“We need a full and immediate withdrawal (of Hezbollah) from the fighting in Syria,” he said.
He said Hezbollah’s huge arsenal of weapons supplied by Syria and Iran had made the Islamist group, which says its priority is fighting Israel, “stronger than the state”.
The United Nations says 93,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, which has displaced millions of people, including more than 500,000 to Lebanon, a country of only 4 million. Fighting between Lebanese groups supporting and opposing Assad has cost dozens of lives in Lebanon.
Hezbollah helped Assad’s forces retake the Syrian border town of Qusair from rebels this month. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese political and military movement, vowed on Friday to maintain the fight in Syria.
Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Alistair Lyon