Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem , usually referred to as number 2 said that an interview Aoun had given to French daily Le Figaro, which was published Monday, reflected “honorable” and “responsible” positions held by the president.
“President Michel Aoun is the [main] guarantor of Lebanon’s stability, and he is the one whose record is filled with [positions] against the Israeli occupation and … terrorism,” Qassem said. “He is the one who is keen on liberating Lebanon and defending it.”
In the interview, Aoun stressed that Hezbollah does not play any military role inside Lebanon or carry out acts along the country’s southern border with Israel.
He also said that although some observers have condemned Hezbollah’s role in fighting terrorist groups in Syria, the reality for Lebanon was different on the ground.
“Terrorists were attacking our land, and Hezbollah was defending it,” Aoun said.
Aoun , the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, is considered a close ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad. In February 2006, Aoun and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah struck a memorandum of mutual understanding and ever since he has been defending its role .
Hezbollah’s alleged missile plant
Aoun slammed on Tuesday as “baseless” the allegations of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu about missile sites near Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport.
Allegations of Netanyahu about military bases around the airport’s vicinity are baseless and conceal an Israeli threat to Lebanese sovereignty,” said Aoun.
Aoun stressed that Lebanon will fight back shall Israel decide to carry out any aggression against it.
“Lebanon will confront any Israeli aggression against its sovereignty,” he said.
During his address before the U.N. General Assembly Netanyahu displayed aerial photos of the alleged Hezbollah facilities and warned Hezbollah : “Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows where you are doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it.” But Lebanon FM Gebran Bassil took several ambassadors for a tour of the locations and accused Netanyahu of fabricating lies to justify another aggression against Lebanon.
Lebanese wary of Aoun’s defense of Hezbollah
Several Lebanese leaders cannot believe how Aoun insists that Hezbollah was respectful of the decisions and positions made by the government.
Parties close to the March 14 coalition accuse Hezbollah of dominating Lebanon, confiscating its sovereignty and independence and monopolising war and peace decisions in Lebanon, while Aoun continues to consider Hezbollah “a resistance movement defending Lebanon.”
Aoun insists on defending Hezbollah’s performance and its right to keep the weapons it owns. Above all, Aoun denies that Hezbollah has ever used the weapons inside Lebanon. Asked about Hezbollah’s right to veto all strategic decisions, Aoun told Le Figaro: “No. In Lebanon, we follow a system based on consensus, so giving one’s opinion does not mean using the right to veto.”
Sources close to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s Future Movement Party pointed to the fact that the timing of Aoun’s passionate defence of Hezbollah coincided with the arguments in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is investigating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination on February 14, 2005. STL’s public prosecutor indicted Hezbollah and the Syrian regime for having orchestrated the assassination.
Hezbollah-led opposition fighters seized control of several West Beirut neighborhoods from Future Movement militiamen loyal to the government, in street battles that left 11 dead and 30 wounded. The Hezbollah-led fighters also invaded the Druze strongholds of Mt Lebanon resulting in several deaths on both sides.