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Lebanon FM hits back at Arab League over Syria



Lebanon's Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour shot back at criticisms of his recent stances on Syria Thursday, accusing unnamed Arab states of "orchestrating noisy reactions" against the Lebanese government "which they have opposed since day one."

"Lebanon will maintain a neutral stance on Syria, but when Lebanon is affected then of course we have to put Lebanon's interests first," said Mansour at a press conference held upon his return from Cairo at the Rafik Hariri airport.

"A 15 year civil war is enough for us. We will not have more war in our country...I cannot be neutral about the dangers that might happen to my country" he added referring to an Arab League decision to allow members to arm Syrian rebels. Mansour warned that Lebanon would not grant passageway to the transfer of arms.

"I don't see what the problem is with calling for Syria's return to the lap of the Arab League...the verbal attacks against me weren't the first and they won't be the last."

Mansour, a member of the pro-Damascus Amal movement, called on the Arab League Wednesday to reinstate Syria's membership, deeming the move "essential for a political solution", and sparking uproar from Lebanon's opposition and some heads of state.

The remarks appeared to contradict Prime Minister Najib Mikati a policy of "dissociation" from the conflict in Lebanon's dominant neighbor. Mikati has also promise that his country would respect any League decisions about Syria.

“It was not the decisions of the Arab League that drowned Syria in a sea of blood. Bashar Assad is the one who killed his people and drowned Syria in a sea of blood," Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani said in response to Mansour's remarks.

"The Syrian regime has found someone to speak on its behalf at the Arab League," said Saudi-backed former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

"Lebanon’s foreign minister has executed this dark mandate, which is incompatible with the fundamental basis of Arab solidarity, and erases all claims related to the policy of disassociation."

Syria's two year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has claimed nearly 70,000 lives, and has raised the specter of spilling over into neighboring states, namely Lebanon.

Although the smallest of the neighboring states, Lebanon hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees at 332,297 (March 5, 2013 UNHCR figure) with Jordan trailing closely behind at 324,543.

Fears of a crisis spillover into Lebanon have been widespread, and tens of thousands of ammunition rounds have been seized in the country while en route to Syria.

"Based on information that we have, there are reasons to believe that there is a flow of arms both ways - from Lebanon into Syria and from Syria into Lebanon," Terje Roed-Larsen UN special envoy to the Middle East said to reporters in May last year.

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