BEIRUT: Lebanon Prime Minister Najib Mikati has condemned a military exercise by Hezbollah that used live ammunition, warning against any action that “undermines the authority and sovereignty of the state.”
His remarks came in response to a question from US Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka regarding the Hezbollah maneuver, which was held on Sunday in southern Lebanon.
The exercise included demonstrations of heavy weapons, missiles and drones.
Mikati said: “The issue of Hezbollah’s weapons specifically is linked to a reality that requires a comprehensive national consensus, and it must be a priority for the upcoming phase.”
He added that the government is focused on maintaining security throughout Lebanon and deterring actions that threaten stability.
Mikati also highlighted the cooperation between the Lebanese army and UNIFIL within the UN Mission’s operational area, emphasizing Lebanon’s commitment to Resolution 1701.
He called on the UN Security Council to establish a permanent ceasefire in the south and pressure Israel to halt its violations of Lebanese sovereignty.
Wronecka said in a statement: “What matters to us is the stability of Lebanon, and we always encourage the prompt election of a new president to support Lebanon and its people.”
Hezbollah’s military maneuver — conducted ahead of the anniversary of the liberation of southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation — took place within a military camp belonging to the party in the Aaramta area, north of the Litani River, outside the UNIFIL operational zone.
The maneuver sparked outrage among Hezbollah’s opponents and raised questions about the group’s objectives, particularly as it took place the day after the conclusion of the Arab League Summit in Jeddah.
Attendance at the maneuver was open to Lebanese and foreign journalists, though communication in the area was banned to prevent unauthorized filming and broadcasting.
Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party, strongly condemned the exercise, saying he “completely rejected” the maneuver.
He added that the Hezbollah exercise undermined efforts by the Lebanese public, who are “working day and night to rebuild their state and regain Arab and international confidence in the country.”
Geagea said that Hezbollah’s actions demonstrate its indifference to developments in the region, as the party is maintaining the same strategy it has deployed for two decades.
He described the maneuver as a “reckless act” that would only harm Lebanon and undermine the aspirations of its people for the establishment of a genuine state, while also negatively impacting recent progress in the Arab region, ultimately benefiting only Israel.
In a joint statement, the National Council to End the Iranian Occupation in Lebanon and the Lady of the Mountain Gathering said that the maneuver appeared to sideline the role of the Lebanese Army and Resolution 1701.
The exercise came less than a month after a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to the south, where he declared that Iran, through Hezbollah, is active on the Israeli border, the statement added.
The two groups warned that Hezbollah’s intentions were to send a message, both domestically and internationally, that it was leveraging the rapid changes in the region to solidify its dominance within Lebanon, particularly in the presidential battle.
The exercise was designed to intimidate potential new leaders, the statement said.
Despite the attention surrounding the Hezbollah maneuver, the case of Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh — who is facing legal action in Europe — remains the subject of significant scrutiny.
On Monday, the First Investigative Judge in Beirut, Charbel Abou Samra, appointed two units within the Internal Security Forces in Beirut and Mount Lebanon to notify Raja Salameh, the governor’s brother, and Marianne Hoayek, his assistant, of their scheduled interrogations in a Paris court on May 31 and June 13, respectively.
Salameh did not appear before the Paris court on the previously scheduled session on May 16 due to his unavailability for notification, as required by Lebanese law.
Consequently, the French judiciary issued an arrest warrant for Salameh through an Interpol red notice, which was delivered to Lebanon last Friday.
Former Attorney General Hatem Madi told Arab News that the French judiciary’s memorandum does not have any legal effect in Lebanon.
He added that it is impossible to execute an international arrest warrant against a Lebanese citizen and extradite them to France.
“However, if a Lebanese citizen is under suspicion, they should be questioned and a lawsuit must be filed against them in Lebanon,” he said.
Madi said that the non-execution of the international warrant does not mean that Salameh has escaped justice.
Reformist MP Elias Jarada criticized the handling of Salameh’s judicial case by some Lebanese judges, accusing them of negligence and contributing to the French judiciary’s action.
He claimed that there was a deliberate decision taken to prevent Salameh’s arrest among the political class that controls the judiciary, over fears that the former governor could implicate them in financial scandals.
Jarada said that the failure to notify Salameh of the May 16 session before French Judge Aude Buresi was “insulting.”
He called on the Lebanese judiciary to prosecute Salameh for the charges brought against him before the French judiciary, in compliance with the provisions of the Penal Code.