15 Lebanese Soldiers Martyred as Fighting Rages in Sidon, Army Vows Retaliation

BEIRUIT, (ST) - Around 15 Lebanese soldiers, including three officers, were killed in continuing clashes between the Lebanese army force and the Salafi Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir’s armed terrorist groups  in Abra, east of Sidon, who dared to launch a “cold-blooded” attack against the army on Sunday.

According to al-Manar website, the sea route in Sidon, the entry point to the south, was experiencing light traffic amid the spread of the army.

Sidon, yesterday, suddenly turned into a battlefield after Assir terrorists attacked a Lebanese Army barrier in Abra. Security sources said the military post, not far from the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque where Assir preaches, was struck by rocket-propelled grenades. The sources said Assir’s mercenaries were relying heavily on RPGs in the clashes. One armored personnel carrier was set ablaze after receiving a direct RPG hit, they said.

The fast-pacing events in Sidon sparked a series of protests in several parts of the country, some supporting Assir, others the Army.

Very violent battles erupted at Ain al-Hilweh camp today where tanks are being used.

On Monday, the Lebanese army crossed the concrete barriers surrounding Bilal bin Rabah mosque in an attempt to arrest Al-Assir.

The army had earlier evacuated population of the buildings surrounding the mosque where they were trapped since yesterday afternoon.

In a statement earlier in the day, the Army said three of its members, including two officers, were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in the Abra-Sidon area.

 “Without any reason, an armed group belonging to Salafi sheikh Ahmad Assir attacked an Army checkpoint in Abra-Sidon, killing two officers and a private; and wounding several others in addition to destroying several military vehicles,” the statement said.

The army said it would respond with an iron fist to any further aggression against it, calling on officials in Sidon to express unambiguously their position over the dangerous events “either to stand next to the Lebanese Army to protect civilians or to stand beside the provokers of strife and killers of soldiers.”

 “The Army will not remain silent to what it has suffered militarily and politically and will continue its mission to crack down on strife in Sidon and other parts and strike with an iron fist whoever thinks of shedding the blood of the Army and respond to all those who protect them politically and at the media level,” it said.

In a video posted on Youtube Sunday, Assir urged members of the military to desert and called upon all his mercenaries to erupt and support him by blocking roads. “We are being attacked by the Lebanese Army, which is Iranian and Shiite,” Assir claimed.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, who called in all ministers and security chiefs for a meeting at the Baabda palace, declared that the Army has full liberty to counter the aggressors and stop the perpetrators to maintain calm, saying that calls for soldiers to desert and to “wage a jihad” against the military only served “Lebanon’s enemies” and would go on deaf ears of the Lebanese, Palestinians and soldiers.

Rahi: Attacking national institutions worst act of treason

Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi, condemned Monday the attack against the army in Sidon, saying such aggressions brought harm to Lebanon and tampered with the dignity of its people, according to the Lebanese News Agency  (NNA).

"Assaulting national institutions is a crime against the people; it is the worst act of treason," he said.

"We denounce any attack on any human being, and we condemn the cover provided for such crimes," he added, assuring that those who politically cover these aggressions are equal actors of crime.

Rahi, who regretted the fall of innocent victims, demanded the toughest sanctions against the criminals, regretting the fact that some politicians clearly had influence on the judiciary.

"However, no one can stop the justice of God, history and conscience," he affirmed.

Rahi continued that "the incidents taking place in Sidon and the similar interference in the ongoing war in Syria, in spite of the Declaration of Baabda, are the result of the continuing institutional paralysis."

H. Mustafa

Tunisians for Restoring Syrian-Tunisian relations to Normal

(ST) _Secretary-General of the Tunisian  People's Movement Muhammad Brahmi  called on  Tunisian interim Prime Minister Ali La'reed  for restoring Tunisian-Syrian relations to normal.

"The severance of relations with  sisterly Syria is an error that should  be reconsidered." Brahmi said during La'reed meeting with the  delegation of  the People's Movement in the Government Palace

On the other hand Brahmi stressed the need to criminalize normalization with the Zionist entity in the new Tunisian constitution, despite international pressure, pointing out that criminalization of normalization is a point of principle that can not be waived.

Concerning  the assassination of the Tunisian militant  Shukri Belaïd,  Brahmi explained that the Tunisian prime minister  promised to provide the public with  latest developments relating to this issue in the next few days.

Earlier, Tahir Belkhoja , former Tunisian Interior Minister described the  current Tunisian authorities severing  of diplomatic relations with Syria as a fatal diplomatic fatal because embassies are established  to solve the problems of countries, not to endorse or support the leadership.

Worthy mentioning  that a large number of Tunisian terrorists entered Syria under the pretext of alleged  "jihad" and almost daily Tunisian local newspapers publish names of Tunisian terrorists  who were killed in Syria after joining  armed terrorist groups that commit acts of killing and wreaking  in Syria.

 

T. Fateh  

Syrians Should Engage in Dialogue to Reach Understanding - Nejad

TEHRAN, (ST) _Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad stressed  that what is happening in Syria is part of the  enemy scenario to impose hegemony on the region, calling for the need to maintain understanding and national unity as the only way to improve the situation in Syria.

Ahmadi Nejad also stressed in a meeting in Tehran yesterday,  with Lebanon 's  caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and expatriates Adnan Mansour that violence does not solve the problem, "so the parties in Syria should  engage in dialogue to reach an understanding."

The Iranian president expressed his belief that regional developments will end up in serving  the peoples of the region, describing Lebanese-Iranian relations  as excellent.

For his part, the Lebanese Foreign Minister said  that what is happening in Syria casts a shadow on all countries in the region, criticizing decisions to send arms to those who are fighting against the Syrian state.

Mansour stressed that this procedure prolongs the crisis and the conflict in Syria  and does not contribute to address its problems , regretting  the attempts by some to pour oil on fire war in Syria to impose their hegemony on the region.

He indicated the support  provided by Iran to the Lebanese people and resistance, pointing to the importance of the  principled positions of President Ahmadinejad  in support of the rights of the world peoples, including the Lebanese people.

 

T. Fateh

Friends of Terrorism Announced Emergency to Rescue Terrorists

DOHA,(ST)_ In their meeting in Doha yesterday,  Friends of terrorism  announced providing  "urgent support for" the Syrian opposition "on  the ground and left it for each country  to choose the kind of  support it wants."

It seemed that the pace of acceleration made by the participants was linked  to developments in the field after the Syrian Arab Army had made  qualitative progress  in  having total control  on the Lebanese-Syrian border  area in al-Qusair and the isolation of terrorists  with the lack of  their supplies  , a matter which pushed the  friends of Syria  to announce what looks like a state  of emergency to rescue terrorists .

Syria 's International opponents agreed on Saturday to give urgent military support to Western-backed terrorists, 

With the  U.S. administration responded by saying, for the first time, it would arm "rebels" , while Gulf sources say Saudi Arabia has accelerated the delivery of advanced weapons to the rebels over the last week.

Ministers from the 11 core members of the Friends of Syria group, agreed "to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground," according to a statement released at the end of their meeting in Qatar, Reuters said.

The statement did not commit all the countries to send weapons, but said each country could provide assistance "in its own way."

The aid should be channeled through the Western-backed Supreme Military Council, a move that Washington and its European allies hope will prevent weapons falling into the hands of Islamist radicals including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

Two Gulf sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia, which started supplying anti-aircraft missiles to the "rebels" on a small scale two months ago, had accelerated delivery of sophisticated weaponry.

"In the past week there have been more arrivals of these advanced weapons. They are getting them more frequently," one source said, without giving details. Another Gulf source described them as "potentially balance-tipping" supplies.

French military advisers are already training the "rebels" to use some of the new equipment in Turkey and Jordan, sources familiar with the training programs said. U.S. forces have been carrying out similar training, "rebels " say.

A French diplomatic source said Paris would increase non-lethal aid such as communications equipment, gas masks, night vision goggles and bullet proof vests. It would also provide assistance with military strategy and battlefield intelligence.

"All this has already started," a Western source said. "Broadly speaking, Western nations will do this, while Gulf Arab nations will deliver the weapons. It's a division of roles.

"If the northern front receives enough material and non-material support quickly, it could soon be equivalent to thousands of men, or even tens of thousands," the source added.

Tehran, which says it supports Syria  economically and politically, criticized the Doha participants.

"If a meeting leads to weapons being put in the hands of mercenaries and terrorists in Syria, prolonging the killing in Syria and bringing destruction, we are against it," ISNA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani of Qatar, which along with Saudi Arabia has been one of the most open Arab backers of the anti-Syria terrorists , said that supplying them with weapons was the only way to resolve the conflict.

"Force is necessary to achieve justice. And the provision of weapons is the only way to achieve peace in Syria's case," Sheikh Hamad told ministers at the start of the talks.

The meeting in Qatar brought together ministers and senior officials of countries that support the rebels - France, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States - although the fractured Syrian opposition itself was notably absent.

The United States and Russia hoped to bring the Syrian sides together for negotiations originally scheduled to be held in Geneva this month but now unlikely to take place before August.

 

T. Fateh

Salihi:Iran Welcomes Solution to the Crisis in Syria Through Dialogue

Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour kicked off his visit to Iran by meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salihi on Saturday, the National News Agency reported.

Discussions centered on bilateral ties, the regional situation and the need to find a solution to the crisis in Syria through dialogue between the Syrian government and national opposition.

The Iranian foreign minister expressed his country's great admiration for Lebanon, adding that “Iran's interests lies in Lebanon's security and stability.”

Salihi voiced his country’s readiness “to support boosting bilateral relations with Lebanon and activating previously signed cooperation agreements between both countries.”

He also stressed that “Iran welcomes a solution to the crisis in Syria through dialogue.”

Mansour, in turn, congratulated Salihi on the election of the new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani.

The Lebanese FM noted that “the region's security cannot be separated, whereby the repercussions of the crisis in Syria shall reach all regional countries, including Lebanon.”

He also called for halting all acts of violence and initiating a political solution in Syria, adding: “We support Iran in any act that ends bloodshed in Syria.”

M.D