Lebanon PM firm on Assad crimes despite delegation visit
Lebanon's prime minister confirmed his firm stance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's "crimes" on Monday, at an event marking the anniversary of his father's assassination, just a week after President Aoun recieved a delegation from Damascus.
Saad Hariri, whose father Rafiq Hariri was killed along with 22 other people in a 2005 bomb blast on the Beirut seafront, has since blamed Damascus for his fathers' death.
The PM was appointed prime minister in November for a second time, under an arrangement struck with Lebanon's pro-Syrian Hizballah group.
"We negotiated and we made compromises to preserve stability" in Lebanon, he said in an address to a packed hall in Beirut.
"We have not made, and will not make, any compromise on principles such as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, on our point of view on Assad's regime, our stand on illegitimate arms and on Hizballah's implication in Syria," he said to loud applause.
The Hague-based tribunal is responsible for trying Rafiq Hariri's assassination.
Saad Hariri and his allies demand the disarmament of Hizballah and its withdrawal from Syria where the group - that also forms part of the Lebanese government - has been battling alongside Assad's forces.
The comments come just days after Lebanon's newly-elected president received a delegation from the Syrian regime, in a move seen likely to stoke fears of Damascus' growing influence in the country.
Aoun sat down with a delegation sent by President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian ambassador at his palace in Beirut.
Assad's envoy Mansour Azzam delivered a "congratulatory message" from the Syrian president to Aoun, and emphasised the "deep ties" between Lebanon and Syria, according to Hizballah media outlet al-Manar.
It is believed to be the first official meeting between the two countries since 2013.
Hizballah, the only group not to have disarmed in the aftermath of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, insists its arsenal is essential to defend the country against Israel, with which it fought a devastating 2006 summer war.
Five Hizballah members have been accused by the international court of involvement in the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese premier, Rafiq Hariri, but both the Syrian government and Hizballah have repeatedly denied involvement.