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Heated debate on Palestinian disarmament at AUB

By Nada Bakri
Special to The Daily Star
Saturday, November 19, 2005

BEIRUT: Salah Salah of the Palestinian National Council rejected demands for disarming Palestinian refugees before granting them full civil and humanitarian rights at a heated debate at the American University of Beirut Thursday.

Salah was arguing against Tony Nissi, the international coordinator for the Committee on the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, in a debate organized by the Lebanese Palestinian Youth Dialogue on Conflict Resolution.

The debate focused on the aspirations of Palestinian refugees to attain civil and humanitarian rights, the involvement of the Palestinians in the Civil War and the role of Lebanon in supporting Palestine and the refugees.

"The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are suffering from political and humanitarian injustice that no other population has endured," said Salah. "Before granting these refugees their civil and humanitarian rights, any talk on disarming the camps is premature."

The Palestinian official further added that "Palestinian arms do not exist in the first place which makes the demand to disarm the camps baseless."

He explained that weapons are only present in Ain al-Hilweh and Rashidieh camps for protection against radical fundamentalist movements in conflict with members of the Fatah movement.

Salah said the Palestinians alone cannot be held responsible for the Civil War in Lebanon.

 

"Prior to the Israeli invasion, Palestinians fought in the war along with Lebanese, and after 1982 Palestinians became victims of injustice and mistreatment and a policy of revenge," he remarked.

Nissi, on the other hand, said that Palestinians deserve to be treated as "first degree citizens and should enjoy same rights the Arabs in Lebanon enjoy," but argued that their possession of weapons is an obstacle.

"We do not want them to be able to create turbulence or present a threat and their possession of weapons enables them to do so," he said. "If they disarm, I think Lebanon would then grant them all their rights."

Nissi added Lebanon has always supported the Palestinian cause, but Palestinian actions and decisions have hindered this cause.

"Lebanon supported their cause from the beginning," he remarked. "But it was the Palestinians who were against it. We are committed to defend and protect them but we will only do so when they disarm."

Separately, Culture Minister Tarek Mitri met with a delegation from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine headed by Ali Faysal, and discussed recent developments in the Occupied Territories and the refugees' situation in Lebanon.

"We want Lebanese officials to deal with the Palestinian file in its political, security and humanitarian aspects from one perspective," said Faysal.

 

 

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