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French Version

Nation unites for heroes' homecomings

Jumblatt, Fneish stress national unity at welcome ceremony for Samir Kontar

Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt said on Thursday that only Lebanese national unity can protect the resistance, in reference to Hizbullah."Arms cannot protect arms ...

only national unity can protect the resistance," he said, indirectly responding to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who justified Hizbullah's use of arms against other Lebanese factions in early May as "using arms to defend the arms of the resistance."

Speaking at a ceremony in liberated prisoner Samir Kontar's hometown of Aabey, southeast of Beirut, Jumblatt said that there was no contradiction between the resistance and the Taif Agreement, which ended Lebanon's 15-year Civil War (1975-1990) and introduced major amendments to the Lebanese Constitution of 1926.

"There is no contradiction between the resistance and the Taif Agreement ... there is no contradiction between the resistance and the international tribunal," he said, referring to the UN-sponsored court to try suspects in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"There is no contradiction between Lebanon and the resistance after gradually agreeing on a defense strategy," he said, adding that protecting the resistance did not conflict with having sound relations and mutual respect between Lebanon and Syria.

Meanwhile, Hizbullah official and Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish, who participated in the ceremony, said that Hizbullah had never forgotten its historical relations with Jumblatt, adding that Hizbullah was ready to extend its hand to Jumblatt in the future.

Fneish said Lebanon would not have been able to free all Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails had it not of the resistance.

"We should continue with the resistance to liberate the Shebaa Farms and the Kafar Shuba Hills," he added, referring to a border territory that Israel still occupied despite its withdrawal from most of Lebanon in May 2000.

Fneish said the agenda of the Lebanese state did not conflict with that of the resistance.

"We have wasted enough time ... we should cooperate to overcome the past, especially after the formation of the national unity Cabinet," he said.

"We will stretch our hand to our national partners with open hearts and minds regardless of unpleasant past experiences," he added.

Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Talal Arslan also spoke at the ceremony and said that the new Cabinet's ministerial statement should not avoid "recognizing the legitimacy of the resistance."

Arslan paid tribute to Nasrallah and stressed "the mountains will always back the resistance."

Kontar, who was released on Wednesday after spending almost 30 years in Israeli jails, called on all Lebanese "to rally around the resistance."

"Let us all remember Kamal Jumblatt ... Had he been with us, he would have called on his comrades to cut any hand that dares to touch the arms of the resistance," Kontar said.

The late Kamal Jumblatt is the founder of the PSP and the father of Walid Jumblatt.

Kontar said the resistance shall continue even after the liberation of the Shebaa Farms.

"Whoever believes that liberating Shebaa Farms would put an end to the resistance is wrong ... even if we left the Israelis alone, they will not leave us," he said.

"Look at the way they treated the people who signed treaties with them ... Look at what they did to former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat," he added, indirectly blaming Israel for the Palestinian leader's death in November 2004.

As he arrived at his family house earlier on Thursday, Kontar said he had no regrets over what he did three decades ago.

Kontar was arrested in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya in 1978 and was convicted of killing three Israelis.

"I haven't for even one day regretted what I did," he said. "On the contrary, I remain committed to my political convictions."

Kontar received a hero's welcome at his hometown as many people from the village and neighboring areas attended the rally to meet him.

"We are very happy on this beautiful day, this is a victory for Lebanon and the national resistance," said Yusra Khaddaj, 39, as she stood with her three young daughters on the road leading to Aabey.

"Samir Kontar is the son of all the Lebanese," she added.

One banner along the road leading to Aabey read: "From Palestine to Iraq to Lebanon, the resistance is victorious."

Earlier on Thursday, Kontar visited Hizbullah's senior security official Imad Mughniyeh's tomb in Hizbullah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut before heading to his village in a triumphant convoy.

Mughniyeh was killed in a bombing in Syria last February. His death was blamed on Israel, which denied any responsibility.

Meanwhile, Israeli security officials warned on Thursday that Kontar should now fear for his own life.

"Every terrorist who committed an act of terror against Israel, especially someone like Kontar, who killed a little child and two other people, is a target," one of the officials told AFP.

"If there is a chance for Israel to close the file on Kontar, Israel won't hesitate," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Israel's intelligence agencies Mossad and Shin Beth opposed Kontar's release but were over-ruled by political considerations, in order to end the mystery over the fate of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah two years ago in a cross-border raid. Israel responded to that raid by launching a devastating 34-day war on Lebanon.

The bodies of the two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were returned to Israel on Wednesday as part of the swap.

Beirut 18-07-2008
The Daily Star

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