The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received this afternoon at the Grand Serail the Minister of Defense Yaacouf Sarraf and Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and discussed with them the security situation in the country in light of the measures implemented by the Army in the various Lebanese territories.
After the meeting, Prime Minister Hariri spoke to the press: "I wanted to meet you because there is confusion about this issue in the country. First, the army carried a very successful and large operation, and if it had not, there would have been a great problem in the country because the bombs aimed to blow Lebanon.
The Lebanese army entered a camp that hosts ten thousand people and carried a big operation and thank God, there were no injuries among the civilians. The Lebanese army discovered that there was a big plan.
There is the incident of the four Syrian bodies and the army is conducting a clear and transparent investigation in this issue and no one should doubt it because the Lebanese army is keener on the security of the citizens and civilians than anyone else is.
Thus, any attempt to create tension with the army or the military command, which is working day and night to spare Lebanon any terrorist attack, is unacceptable. Also, questioning the investigation carried out by the army command is unacceptable. I will reveal an important information: on several occasions, the army command had information about terrorists and had the ability to reach them but it canceled the operation due to the presence of civilians among them. It knows that if the operation is carried out, civilians will be hurt and the army is keen to abide by the legal procedures.
For me, political support to the Lebanese army is unconditional and I emphasize that the army command is always keen on protecting the civilians. The army is above any suspicion and to those trying to fish in troubled water I say do not even try.
Some said that I summoned the army commander. In fact, I am in continuous contact with him and we consult by phone or meet more than four times per week. Today we met and it was covered by the media but we often meet without any media. Today I wanted the media to cover this meeting because there is confusion and attempts to sow discord in the country.
I am also in constant contact with the Minister of Defense whether during cabinet sessions or outside them to discuss what is related to the army and security. So let no one be skeptical about this issue or put us in a place where neither we are nor the army is. There is a transparent investigation carried out by the Army and the army has our total support."
Question: When will the army get a green light to resolve the situation in Ersal outskirts?
Hariri: The army has total political support to resolve matters but we have to know that there are civilians in the camps and the problem is that the terrorists are using the civilians to protect themselves just as happened with the child who was killed because the terrorist used him as a shield. The army knows what to do. When the army is certain that carrying out any operation will not hurt civilians, the Minister of Defense and the Army Commander are aware that they have the political decision to carry out any operation at the time they deem appropriate. The important thing is that the army command is keen to protect the civilians from any harm.
Question: When will you receive the results of the investigation carried out by the Lebanese army?
Hariri: In the next couple of days. But what I want to say is that there is an attempt to draw suspicions on this issue. There is an attempt to create tension between the Syrian refugees, who are almost one million and a half, and the military forces in the country. This tension doesn't exist. When the army enters a camp that hosts ten thousand people and then the displaced return to it without any problems, this is the main gain, in addition to removing eight bombs that were targeting the Lebanese territories. Thus, the operation was successful and there is no doubt that what happened unfortunately happened and an investigation is underway in this respect.
Question: It was said that you wanted to address the Sunni street through the statement you issued?
Hariri: It is not an issue addressed to the Sunni street or any other street. The main support is to the Lebanese army and the Sunni street is the one that supports most the army and it proved it whether during the Nahr al-Bared, Sidon and Tripoli battles. If we want to look at what happened in Nahr al-Bared, Abra and all the regions that represent the Sunni street we see that there was no resistance against the army. On the contrary, the Sunni street is the biggest supporter of the army. The biggest problem is the presence of one and a half million Syrian refugees and the attempts to create tensions, and I tell everyone that the army command is responsible about security and we totally support it.
Question: We hear a lot from Hezbollah about a battle in Ersal in the coming days, did you ask the army commander about it and does the army know about it?
Hariri: We are in constant contact with all the political parties and the army command because this is the duty of the government. I do not want to discuss what the army will or will not do or when. There is information about this subject but I am not sure about. Our duty as a Lebanese government is to protect the Lebanese citizens and the refugees.
Question: Are you in favor of Hezbollah launching a battle?
Hariri: Certainly not. But I will say one final thing, the investigation is carried out by the army command and my meeting with the Minister of Defense and Army Commander is normal because I am the Prime Minister and they are in charge of the security, especially in light of the challenges facing the country. And to those wanting to fabricate a case or a problem in the country, I tell that there is no problem and we are one hand in the face of any attempt to destabilize the country.
On the other hand, Hariri received the head of the parliamentary budget and finance committee MP Ibrahim Kanaan who said after the meeting: "We discussed with Prime Minister Hariri the overall financial situation and I informed him about the work of the finance committee in the last two months. We hope to complete the study of the draft budget this week or at the beginning of next week if there is quorum."
Hariri then met with the chairman of Middle East Airlines, Mohammad Hout, who said after the meeting: "I informed Prime Minister Hariri about the work of MEA, in light of the stability on the security and political levels which reflected positively on the number of visitors."
He added that he informed the Prime Minister about a decision taken by MEA to open direct flights to Madrid, which will start effectively next April or May. He said that MEA agreed, at the request of Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Public works minister Youssef Fenianos, to a direct line operated by the Canadian airline to Beirut and MEA accepted not to have direct flights to Canada for two years to facilitate the work of the Canadian airline.
Source: National News Agency