The country's prime minister talks about a cease-fire plan, dealing with Hezbollah and making peace with Israel.
President Bush called for approval Monday of a proposed cease-fire to halt the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah — but Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon rejected the plan, which would permit Israeli forces to remain in southern Lebanon until an international force could be deployed. In an interview, Siniora, 63, discussed his view of the necessary steps toward peace, as well as his relationship with Hezbollah leaders amid Israel’s military campaign against the Islamic extremist group based inside his country.
Do you expect to see a cease-fire soon?
We are working intensively to bring it about, but it will take a while longer, possibly until the middle of the week. Perhaps even longer. I don’t want to encourage any false hopes.
The cease-fire is the first of seven items you have called for in your peace initiative. Do you continue to stand behind this program?
Yes, we want a lasting solution, especially now that Israel has attacked our country for the seventh time in three decades. The current offensive is the worst of them all in terms of civilian casualties and economic damage. Lebanon has now been torn to pieces.
Who should pay for the damage — fellow Arab countries?
Israel must pay, because it is currently depriving Lebanon of its ability to survive. Israel continues to occupy part of our country and has even held onto the maps that show where the minefields are located. I have held Israel responsible for this from the very beginning.
What are the other main items in your plan?
First of all, our territory and our prisoners must be returned to us. Then the government should patrol our borders, to which no one but our own army is entitled. In addition, the United Nations should provide us with an international peacekeeping force.
Would you also accept NATO members?
Absolutely not. We have had bad experiences with the troops of former colonial and mandate powers in this part of the world. We Lebanese insist on the unrestricted reestablishment of our sovereignty, and under no circumstances do we want a return to the situation that prevailed before the crisis erupted. We would most prefer to see a revival of the cease-fire agreement that was put in place in 1949. All parliamentary groups have signed this plan.
Certainly. The two Hezbollah cabinet ministers in my government have agreed.
What would you have to provide in return?
Hezbollah is satisfied with the core elements of the seven-point plan, such the return of the Shabaa Farms and the release of the prisoners. If Israel is truly interested in peace, it should take our plan seriously. After all, what has been the ultimate result of almost 60 years of Israel’s readiness for war?
But Hezbollah has been a threat to Israel for years.
Hezbollah is a product of the 1982 Israeli invasion. The occupation and constant degradation allowed a feeling of humiliation and helplessness to develop in the Arab world, which turned into despair and made terrorism possible in the first place.
In order to settle the crisis, some argue, the captured Israeli soldiers and the Lebanese imprisoned in Israel would have to be exchanged. How are the negotiations going?
I’ll tell you quite frankly: Neither I nor my colleagues in the cabinet knew anything about Hezbollah’s kidnapping plans. This is why we take no responsibility.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claims to have notified your government.
That isn’t true.
Hasn’t Hezbollah at least told you where the prisoners are being held?
We know absolutely nothing. We remain completely in the dark. We also have no idea where Hezbollah’s fighters and its weapons are located. Within the framework of a national dialogue, Nasrallah merely informed us that military operations were underway. That’s all.
Hasn’t Germany offered to help negotiate the prisoner exchange?
No, no one has contacted us.
Will Lebanon sign a peace treaty with Israel?
We can only do that once Syria and the other Arab countries have signed peace treaties with Israel on the basis of mutual respect and within the framework of the terms agreed to at the 2002 Arab summit in Beirut.
You are referring to the demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders …
Until then, however, we can certainly live with a credible peace agreement.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
This article has been provided by Der Spiegel through a special arrangement with Salon. For more from Europe’s most-read newsmagazine, please visit Spiegel Online at http://www.spiegel.de/international or subscribe to the daily newsletter.
More Related Stories
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Moore officials: Funds for "safe rooms" were held up by red tape
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Rescue crews race to find tornado survivors
- Looting in Oklahoma?
- Hundreds of low-wage federally contracted workers strike in D.C.
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11