Interview with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora
It’s now Day 6 in a war with Lebanon as a theater, what do you intend to do?
We are attempting to find the means to exit this situation, weighty in its destruction and harm. We seek an immediate and total cease-fire so that we may deal with the both the consequences and the cause of the capture of two Israeli soldiers and to settle the question of Lebanese imprisoned in Israel for the last 30 years.
The government is determined to extend its exclusive authority over the whole of Lebanese territory with the help of the United Nations and our brother countries and friends, and to iron out all the problems that Israel refuses to address and that are the source of crisis and tension.
Are you saying that you share Hezbollah's demand for a prisoner exchange?
The release of Lebanese prisoners is a legitimate Lebanese demand. But why are you talking about Hezbollah alone? How could I not be concerned with Lebanese held prisoner by the Israelis? When I demand that Israel cease to violate Lebanese airspace, does that mean I’m adopting the Hezbollah point of view? Israel claims that it wants to end the arming of Hezbollah. My answer is: there is simple way of achieving this goal, and that is to resolve other problems.
Israel accuses others of terrorism while practicing it itself in more lethal forms It creates the problems then maintains them as open sores to be exploited as a means of pressure. I’d like to talk about the Lebanese whom it holds, the mines which it has planted in Lebanon and refuses to give us the location while dozens of people have killed and others maimed for years by these devices.
Israel systematically violates our airspace and territorial waters, continues its occupation of the Shebaa Farms, a 45 km2 stretch of territory that it knows belongs to Lebanon. How do you explain its behavior other than to maintain a state of tension and to pressure Lebanon? The lack of a final resolution of these endemic problems favors extremism. Quick and superficial solutions only worsen things.
We have repeatedly stated that we were not informed in advance of the capture of two Israeli soldiers and that we do not assume responsibility for this act or claim it as our own. Is the killing and destruction by Israel for the two captured soldiers acceptable?
Today there was a massacre in the village of Aitarun and in the city of Tyre. Yesterday it happened to Bayada and Mirwaheen. Are Lebanese lives worth so little?
Could you convince Hezbollah? Are you in contact with it?
There are contacts. Contacts were never interrupted and we will continue to work steadfastly on the basis of a clear position and in maintaining the spirit of Lebanese and Arab interests. We are responsible for the Lebanese people and we will commit ourselves to obtaining a cease fire, putting a stop to massacres and Israel's infernal machine. We have clear ideas, our determination is solid and we defend a just cause.
How do you judge the responsibilities of UNIFIL, which refused to admit fleeing villagers from Mirwaheen to their compound, who were later killed by Israeli targeted bombing?
We are investigating this incident. But the UN informs me that the group of villagers killed is not the group that the UNIFIL forces refused to admit, due to sufficient notification. However, we know who is guity. It is Israel. Israel committed this crime.
The UN Security Council could not reach an agreement on a ceasefire because of the attitude of the United States, who say, nevertheless, that they are friends of Lebanon.
We are their friends but their friendship for Israel is greater.
What do you think of the attitude of France?
I've spoken with Prime Minister de Villepin and Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy and informed them of our legitimate demands. We well appreciate that France is unwavering in its support for Lebanon as well as the friendship of the French Administration and people for the Lebanese.
We are grateful to President Chirac for helping Lebanon and that we are in his thoughts along with France. We are convinced that he will do everything possible to support our demands.
What about the Israeli proposal communicated to you by Italian Premier Romano Prodi that would produce a ceasefire on the condition that the Lebanese Army would be deployed in Southern Lebanon and a pullout by Hezbollah?
Let us be clear: Mr. Prodi, who is an old friend of Lebanon, simply relayed the contents of a conversation which he had with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. It was by no means an official proposal.
Interview by Mouna Naïm