BEIRUT: Syria’s leading opposition figure Ahmad Moaz Al Khatib called on Lebanon’s Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to withdraw his fighters to avoid the conflict degenerating into a sectarian war.
“Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria has complicated matters deeply, and I expected you, given your political and social stature, to play a more positive role” said Khatib in a letter posted on Facebook. The message was also filmed and posted on YouTube.
Hizbollah says Syrian rebels have targeted Shiite areas of Syria inhabited by Lebanese and that Shiites in Syria have a right to self-defence.
But the accusations against Hizbollah have multiplied as fighting escalated this week in the Qusayr area near the Lebanon border.
“The claim of defence for Shiite villages is unacceptable,” said Khatib, who on Sunday quit as head of Syria’s main opposition National Coalition in protest at what he said was world inaction over Assad’s onslaught on the rebels.
“There is a cunning plan to drag the Islamic world into sectarian conflict pitting Sunnis against Shiites, starting from Syria and Lebanon, only then to engulf all countries in the region, including Iran and Turkey,” he added. But nobody could win in such a conflict, he said.
“Aren’t 1,000 years of strife between Sunnis and Shiites enough for us to bury this narrow sectarian mentality?” he asked.
Khatib, a cleric, who has widespread support in Syria, made his appeal just two days after Sunni sheikh Ahmad Al Assir called for Lebanese fighters to join insurgents seeking to oust Assad.
But the main rebel group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), rejected the call in a statement on Wednesday.
“We reject any presence of foreign fighters, regardless of where they are from,” FSA political and media coordinator Louay Muqdad said.
“We have said that what we are missing in Syria is weapons, not men.”
Two Lebanese Salafist sheikhs have called on their followers to join rebels fighting in Syria and to support Sunni residents of the embattled central province of Homs, following the reports of Hizbollah’s intervention.