Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea put Hizbullah on notice that he expected them to lay down their arms, saying regional policies that have long-protected the terror organization's arsenal were fading in the Arab Spring.
“The existence of illegitimate weapons in Lebanon is no longer justified or acceptable, particularly in light of major [regional] changes and the collapse of equations that created it,” Geagea told thousands of followers who gathered at Fouad Chehab Stadium on Saturday for an annual Mass in tribute to fallen LF fighters.
Founded as a patriotic militia by Bachir Gemayel during the Lebanese Civil War, the Lebanese Forces served as the main militia within the Christian-dominated Lebanese Front against Syrian troops occupying Lebanon and against the Palestinian Liberation Organization. After the civil war, Geagea recreated the LF as a political party.
Today, Geagea and his party are an influential force in the so-called March 14 opposition, which has repeatedly called for Hizbullah to disarm and disband its militias on the grounds they undercut the sovereignty and will of the Lebanese people. During his speech, Geagea directly accused Hizbullah of dictating Lebanon’s foreign agenda and key policies though use of the threat of arms.
Geagea also reiterated his support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which indicted four Hizbullah members in June for the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Unlike previous years, representatives for top officials in the ruling Mikati government did not attend the Mass. Lebanese Armed Forces commander Jean Kahwaji, however, did send a representative.
The absence of representatives for senior government officials underscores a growing divide between the March 14 [opposition] alliance and its opponents in the Hizbullah-backed March 8 movement headed by Mikati that runs the country, this over the STL and the influence of Hizbullah's arms in Lebanese politics.
Kataeb party leader Amin Gemayel attended the Mass along with a large number of March 14 lawmakers. Former prime minister Saad Hariri, son of Rafiq Hariri and head of the Future Movement, was represented by MP Nuhad Mashnouq.
Hariri, seen by many as the de facto leader of Lebanon's opposition, has been living outside Lebanon for six months due to concerns he may be targeted for assassination by political opponents, as was his father.