|A group of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Photo from naharnet.com)|
Adnan Mansour, minister of foreign affairs in Lebanon’s Hezbollah-led government, has spurned U.S. ambassador in Beirut Maura Connelly’s call for the protection of unarmed Free Syrian Army (FSA) elements sheltering in Lebanon.
He told Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV in an interview, “Lebanon can’t consider such a request… We don’t want another ‘Camp Ashraf’ in Lebanon.”
Camp Ashraf refers to the refugee camp set up in Iraq’s Diyala province for Iran’s exiled Mujahadeen-e-Khalq at the peak of the Iran-Iraq war.
After her meeting earlier in the week with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, the embassy had issued a statement saying, “Ambassador Connelly recognized Lebanon’s efforts to provide assistance to Syrians fleeing the violence in their country and she encouraged the Lebanese government to continue its cooperation with the international community and provide for the humanitarian needs and safety of all Syrians who have fled to Lebanon, including dissenters and deserters.
“She noted the Lebanese government’s right and responsibility to secure its borders, and called for the protection of all disarmed Syrians, including members of the Free Syrian Army. She reaffirmed the United States’ concern for the disappearance and kidnappings of Syrian nationals in Lebanon. She underscored U.S. concerns that developments in Syria not contribute to instability in Lebanon.”
“We don’t want to create a security problem in Lebanon that goes beyond our capabilities and violates our policy,” Mansour told Al-Manar TV, adding: “Offering a safe haven to armed elements is unacceptable.”
Since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising a year ago, at least 10,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Lebanon.
By last month there were about 7,400 UN-registered refugees in northern Lebanon, with thousands living unregistered in the hills and in Tripoli. They were joined last week by another 1,500-2,000 who fled the Syrian Army’s bombardment of Baba Amr and al-Qusayr and sought refuge in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa.