Beirut, Lebanon - Lebanese leaders are trying to draw a line between sanctions against Syria's people and punishing the Syrian criminals.
They are all calling for brotherly relations with the Syrian people but at the same time want to make sure all the criminals involved in the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri are severely punished.
Hariri's son, MP Saad Hariri, has refused to respond to criticism in the Syrian press (which is completely controlled by the Assad regime) since the report by German judge Detlev Mehlis was released, stressing Lebanon would "stand by the Syrian people". At the same time he called for justice and trial of murderers in International courts.
PSP leader, Walid Jumblatt, has said any UN Security Council sanctions against Damascus over the Hariri assassination should target "those who carried out the assassination" and not the people of Syria. Jumblatt stressed on the "brotherly relations with the Syrian people".
The Lebanese cabinet also stressed on this differentiation (between the people and the regime) in its statement that was read by Information Minister Aridi on behalf of the Prime Minister.
"What is happening will not change in the least the brotherly relations and cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian peoples," Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said.
He stressed on Sunday that Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otri was welcome to visit Beirut, although it was up to Damascus to take the initiative of restoring contacts. According to news reports from Syria, Otri has reportedly refused to respond to several phone calls from Siniora. Siniora last week called this news leak 'diplomatically incorrect'.
Lebanese leaders have been trying to play down tensions with longtime power-broker Syria after the release of the UN report.
Leaders of the parliamentary majority which emerged from polls held after the end in April of Syria's three-decade troop deployment in Lebanon have called for the preservation of "brotherly relations with the Syrian people".
Syria's official media in Damascus is not happy with the distinction the Lebanese making between the Syrian leadership and the people of Syria and have stepped up the attacks.
"The voices in Lebanon which are trying to make a distinction between the Syrian people and their leaders are seeking to destabilize Syria by intervening in their internal affairs," Damascus Radio said.
Officials in Lebanon have welcomed the Mehlis report, but Syria and its Lebanese allies have been critical of the report.
Lebanon's Hezbollah and Amal (close allies of Syria) called for a more serious probe of the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, saying last week's UN report on the killing was a disappointment.
"The report did not conclude with the truth that the Lebanese were waiting for," the groups which are in the Lebanese government said in a joint statement after a meeting of their leaders.
"Reaching the truth requires a serious investigation and judicial inquiry based on facts and proof, free of any politicization," the statement read in its veiled criticism.
Hezbollah and Amal also said they opposed any sanctions being slapped on Syria which was implicated in the report released last Thursday on the murder of Hariri in a massive Beirut bomb blast.
"In the face of a campaign of pressure exerted by the United States and Israel, we announce our rejection of any decision which would impose sanctions on Syria," they said.
Analysts agree the report is not perfect, but blame Syria's lack of cooperation for the holes in the report. Neither Amal nor Hezbollah blamed Syria. On the other hand both organizations want the complete Truth as evident from their statement. They should therefore put pressure on Syria to cooperate so that innocent Syrians aren't hurt and criminals are brought to Justice. If Assad is as innocent as he claims, he should cooperate fully with UN. No one in Lebanon wants Syria to be Iraq-ized.
As expected the Mehlis report has placed Damascus and the new leadership in Beirut (the former anti-Syrian opposition) on opposite sides of the fence.
Lebanon has been invited to take part in Tuesday's Security Council meeting on the report into the international probe. Boutros Assaker, Secretary General of Lebanese Foreign is to represent Lebanon at the briefing on the report drawn up by Mehlis who heads a UN commission of inquiry into the February 14 assassination.
The report has implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian security officials and close relatives of Syrian president Bashar Assad in the Beirut blast which killed Hariri and 20 other people on Valentine's day.
Sources: Ya Libnan,
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