05/21/2013, 00.00
SYRIA - LEBANON
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Hizbollah's help to Assad increases the danger of Syria conflict spilling over into Lebanon

The Party of God confirms it will fight "across Syria." Clashes in Tripoli kill a Lebanese soldier. Hariri accuses Hizbollah of replicating "Israeli crimes" against "Lebanon and its people". Obama calls Suleiman. Saudi Crown Prince visits Turkey.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The death of scores of Hizbollah fighters, 30 according to Reuters, in the battle for control of the strategic city of Qusayr, sign of the involvement of the Lebanese Shia party in Syria's civil war, could widen the conflict and bring in Lebanon. In fact, Shia-Sunni clashes broke out yesterday in the city of Tripoli leaving one Lebanese soldier dead and six wounded after regular troops moved in to separate pro and anti-Assad factions. For his part, Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokdad blamed Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah for the bloodshed in Qusayr, calling him "a killer of the Syrian people" for helping government forces.

"We will fight in all of Syria because we are fighting the Israeli enemy," said Sheikh Mohammad Yazbeck, a member of Hizbollah's highest decision-making body, the Shura Council. However, he did not explain how the fight against Syrian rebels was related to the fight against Israel.

Meanwhile, as more reports today indicate that Hizbollah is sending more fighters to help the Syrian army, Israeli soldiers patrolling the Golan Heights along the border with Syria fired back after coming under fire overnight. No one was killed or wounded, but the incident is a sign of growing tensions.

In Lebanon, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticised President Michel Suleiman, Shia National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri, and Sunni caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, who heads the Hizbollah-dominated government, over Hizbullah's crime of fighting in Syria.

"Hizbullah," he said, "has chosen to replicate the Israeli crimes in Lebanon and its people in the Syrian town of Qusayr and the villages of Reef Homs."

However, for Imad Salamey, professor of International Affairs at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, "The government cannot stop Hizbollah, and the [Lebanese] army stopping Hizbollah from intervening in Syria will definitely not be the case".

"Hizbollah is being dragged further into the Syrian conflict," he told Al Arabiya English, "and it is not going to end in Qusayr," he added, noting that the Shia movement "was dragging Lebanon into a civil war."

US President Barack Obama on Monday expressed to President Michel Suleiman in a telephone call his concern over Hizbullah's role in Syria, the White House said in a released statement.

"President Obama stressed his concern about Hizbullah's active and growing role in Syria, fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, which is counter to the Lebanese government's policies."

"The two leaders agreed that all parties should respect Lebanon's policy of disassociation from the conflict in Syria and avoid actions that will involve the Lebanese people in the conflict."

Saudi Defence Minister Crown Prince Salman began a two-day visit to Turkey today. The Syrian crisis is expected to top discussions at scheduled meetings with President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan. Saudis and Turks support the rebels. (PD)

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