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Jumblat Slams Army Critics: Spread of Illegitimate Arms Can Only Be Resolved with Dialogue
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Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat lamented on Saturday the rise of extremism in Lebanon at the expense of moderation, stressing the need to combat it through backing the state and the army.

He said in a statement: The recent developments demonstrate that the spread of arms cannot be tackled through more arms but through the return to dialogue.

The recent chaos is tantamount to a crime against the Lebanese army and attempts to build the state, he added.

It is a blow to the martyrs who died while performing their national duties to enforce stability and security, he continued.

Jumblat stressed: We reject any unjustified attempt to tarnish the army's image.

It is sad and scary to see the posters of former Premier Saad Hariri, who is a symbol of moderation, being torn down in the northern city of Tripoli and in late PM Rashid Karami's square, who in turn was also a symbol of Lebanese national moderation, he stated.

It is sad and scary to see the moderation advocated by slain Premier Rafik Hariri fail as a result of ongoing policies of incitement and the shortcomings of political leaders, he added.

It is unfortunate that the confusion within a major political camp has led to this extent of extremism, he noted in an indirect reference to the Mustaqbal Movement.

The Lebanese are better off adhering to moderation instead of falling victim to the traps of sectarian extremism that can be thwarted through supporting the state and its institutions starting with the army and security forces, Jumblat added.

These security and military forces are the people's last resort in protecting stability through confronting extremist thought even at the expense of popular interests, he remarked.

On this note, he rejected all sides that questioned the role of the army in the recent clashes that took place in the southern city of Sidon between the army and armed supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir that took place on Sunday and Monday.

He also demanded that an investigation be launched in the amateur video that showed a group of soldiers humiliating, beating and kicking a man suspected of supporting al-Asir.

The army on Thursday handed over a group of soldiers accused of abusing a detainee to the military police for questioning, a military source and the state-run National News Agency said.

Eighteen soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in clashes between the army and armed supporters of al-Asir in Sidon.

More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official.

Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric.

Sidon Muslim Ulemas accused on Wednesday Hizbullah fighters of taking part in the battles alongside the army, despite assertions by various officials that the army acted alone in combating the gunmen.

Addressing the dispute over next week's three-day parliamentary session, Jumblat wondered: How is that some of the officials are now beginning to respect the balance of power between the parliament and government?

Wasn't parliament's term extended through the caretaker government's approval? he asked.

Why this sudden shift in position? he asked, accusing some sides of adopting double standards in their political practices.

Shouldn't the needs of this current phase in Lebanon obligate the extension of the term of the army commander, the support of the military institution, and the approval of a number of draft laws that would help improve living conditions in Lebanon? he wondered.

Parliament is scheduled to convene on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in order to tackle a number of draft laws.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati has however voiced his rejection of the session, explaining that a regular parliamentary meeting cannot be held in light of a caretaker cabinet.

Parliament can only convene to address pressing issues, he said.

A number of parliamentary blocs advocated his position, announcing their boycott of the session.