Lebanon's ex-president vows army's unity, constitutional procedures
Daoud Rammal

Despite recent events, the latest being the abduction of military members at the hands of armed terrorist groups, former President Michel Suleiman clings to his optimism. In an interview with As-Safir at his residence in Yarze, he recalled the past, confirmed facts of the present and tackled how the future should unfold.
Suleiman expressed satisfaction with the wide international and regional support garnered by the army, and said, “Russia has repeatedly voiced its readiness to supply the army with weapons, particularly helicopters, tanks and ammunition. The only pending point is the availability of specific amounts capable of enabling Lebanon to logistically receive these weapons. This is being seriously studied in light of the grants and the [military] programming law, and it needs to be approved by the parliament, but the army may receive part of this amount pending the ratification of the law.”
The former president of the republic said, “Lebanon is starting to receive what it asked the American side for, namely programs previously decided upon but that have been expedited. There is a gift of $1 billion, with which [Lebanon] will buy equipment from the United States and other countries, but the purchase of arms needs time. This is why I called for dropping the routine procedures in order to deliver weapons, munitions and ammunition. As for the gift of $3 billion, it exists, even if it took time to materialize due to the difficult administrative procedures. Moreover, it is easy to haphazardly throw around rumors about commissions delaying the implementation of the grant, which sometimes gives me the feeling that there are people who do not favor the implementation of the grant. To put an end to these rumors, I asked the prime minister to mandate a committee tasked with following up on the issue, and the most important thing in this gift is that it did not come through to Lebanon, noting that reports about deals and commissions harm the general mood, and we have unfortunately failed to deal with the grant in an honorable way.”

EU ambassador: Lebanon in need of development solutions
Ghassan Rifi

Angelina Eichhorst, EU ambassador to the Lebanese Republic, revealed that during her last visit to Brussels, she came under a barrage of questions about Lebanon’s ability to continue as a nation and state in light of such a large number of displaced Syrians in the country. She stressed the need not to limit services and aid to Syrians only, but to include the Lebanese as well, who have suffered a great deal.
“Terrorism and extremism cannot be confronted through security measures only. Establishing a social, economic and development safety net would help create job opportunities and tackle poverty,” Eichhorst said. “The EU is carrying out its duties in providing help for the displaced, but the Lebanese are also in need of aid.”

Eichhorst, who visited As-Safir's office in Tripoli on Sept. 11, said, “Lebanon is under great pressure as a result of the Syrian refugees in the country. Political, economic and social solutions ought to be found in this regard, which come through a sense of responsibility toward the situation.”

“The solution for the refugee issues is to end the war in Syria so that they can return to their country. There is a country called Syria, and Syrians ought to return there,” she said, stressing the need to “share responsibility between all parties, through unified visions and goals.” Eichhorst called upon Lebanese leaders to take on responsibility and implement a strategy in cooperation with the EU, “which is assuming this responsibility, as a prelude to the refugees’ return to their country, in addition to providing the Lebanese with job, education, economic development opportunities, especially in northern Lebanon Tripoli.”

Bekaa's Christians consider taking up arms
Imad Marmal

With the exacerbation of the threat of terrorist extremists and its spread to Lebanon, talk has escalated about Lebanese people’s increased inclination to carry weapons, especially in regions that might be targeted by the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, as is the case in the northern Bekaa Valley. There has been a lot of talk about the phenomenon of armament and whether it's justified or not. This discussion is especially heated in the Christian community, first because of considerations about the pronounced alignments and second due to the increased sensitivity among Christians to self-security.
Since the political conflict between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces is deep and intense, the armament issue quickly turned into a subject of debate. The Lebanese Forces (LF) clearly accused the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of encouraging Christians generally and in particular their supporters, to carry arms under the pretext of fighting the threat of IS. The March 14 General Secretariat formally made this accusation and recently included it in one of its weekly statements.
Although the FPM understands the concern of Christians regarding the existential threat that the growing extremist wave poses and although it is trying to address this threat in its own way, a source in Rabieh confirmed that General Michel Aoun is still warning against calls for armament. He clearly told some people close to him that he opposes this issue but that, “People who already have a rifle at home and use it to protect their families are a different issue.”

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