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Bassil’s Slip of Tongue Ignites Security, Sectarian Tension in Lebanon

Bassil’s Slip of Tongue Ignites Security, Sectarian Tension in Lebanon

Tuesday, 30 January, 2018 - 06:45
A man gestures as supporters of the parliament speaker burn tires to block a main road in Beirut on January 29, 2018. ANWAR AMRO / AFP

President Michel Aoun needs to intervene to solve a dispute that emerged after a video of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), called Speaker Nabih Berri a thug, sources close to Hezbollah told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday.

The sources said Bassil should also apologize from the Speaker to contain the dispute between the FPM and Berri’s Amal movement, particularly that the verbal attack moved from the political to the personal and sectarian levels.

“The mistake is clear and the offender is known,” the source said, adding that Bassil’s offense could not be treated similarly to other disputes, such as the one that emerged lately between Aoun and Berri over a decree to promote a number of officers without the approval of the Finance Minister.

The source added: “A minister offended a speaker and therefore, he should correct his mistake.”

FPM sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that it was possible to fix the situation.

“Efforts are being exerted to reach a solution and contain the problem. However, if the other party decides to escalate, things will be different,” the sources added.

A leaked video was released on Monday of the foreign minister speaking during an electoral gathering. In the video, Bassil said of Berri: “This is a thug not a speaker of parliament. The solution is for us to break him and not for him to break us.”

The video immediately inflamed sectarian and security tension.

Amal Movement members blocked several streets in Beirut and Baalbek on Monday evening, burning tires and removing posters of Aoun and his son-in-law Bassil.

Several political figures intervened to contain the situation that reached an unprecedented level.

In a statement issued to comment on Bassil’s video, Hezbollah said it categorically rejected the insulting statements against Berri.

“This rhetoric cannot build a country or lead to reform, but it creates more crises, causes rifts and endangers the entire situation,” the statement said.

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