Salam Warns against Strife, Rejects Sectarian Classifications

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Prime Minister Tammam Salam expressed surprise at instigation campaigns carried out by certain parties over the case of Lebanese soldiers and security forces members taken captive by jihadists in the northeastern border town of Arsal.

In remarks to As Safir newspaper published on Monday, Salam warned against turning the issue into a “sectarian strife through irresponsible behavior.”

Islamist have burned crosses in the northern city of Tripoli allegedly in retaliation to the burning of an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant flag in Beirut’s Ashrafiyeh district.

Reports said however that the flag was burned last month and not over the weekend.

Al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, freed five Sunni captives late Saturday.

“In whose interest the captives are being categorized based on Sunnis, Shiites, Christians or Druze?” Salam asked.“What are the results of such behavior?”

Salam warned the Lebanese against being dragged into such classification.

On Sunday, al-Nusra Front threatened to kill the Shiite soldiers should Hizbullah intervene in battles in Syria’s al-Qalamoun region.

The soldiers and policemen were kidnapped by al-Nusra Front and Islamic State fighters when they overran Arsal on August 2.

Several of them were set free in previous stages but the the latest hostage release was on Saturday night.

Salam has announced the formation of an emergency cell to tackle the case. The cell, which is made up of top security and political officials, held its first meeting on Sunday.

The prime minister told As Safir that the “sensitive” issue “concerns all the Lebanese.”

He reiterated that he hasn’t even informed the relatives of the kidnapped men about the details of the case out of the government’s strong belief that it would be resolved faster if there was secrecy on it.

Salam also welcomed any local and Arab initiative to set the captives free.

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