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During a press conference, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel denied on Friday al-Qaeda presence in Lebanon and stressed that the country could be a transit route for the group but not a permanent base.

Commenting on Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn’s statement about al-Qaeda , Charbel said Ghosn’s statements on al-Qaeda ” were taken out of context”.

“The defense minister did not mean that Al-Qaeda groups are present in [the town of Arsal, but that some of the terrorist organization’s members infiltrated Lebanon,” Charbel stressed.

He added that the Lebanese government “must not interfere in Syrian affairs and must monitor the border.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Wednesday there is “no solid evidence” that proves the presence of Al-Qaeda terrorist cells in Lebanon.

“Talking about Al-Qaeda presence in the town of Arsal does not mean that it is a reality,” Mikati told reporters, a few days after Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn warned of the existence of such groups.

“We did not receive information of having such organizations,” Mikati said and added “Such a critical issue should not be addressed in a manner that may harm Lebanon.”

Ghosn who is reportedly closely associated with Hezbollah and MP Michel Aoun informed the Lebanese cabinet last Thursday that al-Qaeda members had infiltrated the Bekaa town of Arsal.

President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has blamed Friday’s twin suicide bombing on “terrorist organizations,” including Al-Qaeda, and quoted Lebanese officials as warning Syria that Al-Qaeda members infiltrated into Syria from the town of Arsal.

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