19 June 2017
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri praised residents of south Lebanon for their efforts in religious coexistence, promising “major infrastructure developments” at an iftar held in Majdalyoun over the weekend. In what he said was his final stop on a tour of the country to assess development and infrastructure needs in struggling regions, the prime minister told his audience that “he had saved the best for last.”
“Sidon [was] saved for last because it was the beginning ... the beginning of the march that we want to continue with you, the march of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,” the premier said in recognition of his late father, killed in a 2005 bombing.
“You are the people of coexistence between Muslims and Christians,” he said. “You are the people of moderation and adherence to the true values of Islam, who protected Sidon and its image from being distorted.”
He praised Sidon for its waste-management plant, calling the city a “model” in the field of waste treatment at a time “all Lebanese are looking for a solution to the issue.”
In terms of future projects, Hariri noted that the Council for Development and Reconstruction has begun to develop and expand the ports of Sidon and Tyre. Other projects include sewage-treatment plants, sports facilities, hospitals and a rehabilitated road network.
He added that plans were “being drawn up” to bring back Sidon’s previous glory days as a tourist attraction while introducing ecotourism to Jezzine through hiking trails.
During his time in the south, the prime minister also met with families of detainees linked to the 2013 Abra battles and made promises to follow up on a general amnesty law.
Loyalists of the radical Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir fought against the Army in June 2013. The clashes left 18 soldiers and 40 militants dead.
Despite the incident, Hariri noted in his speech that he understood that “a small number of young people” were “manipulated” and therefore deserving of a second chance. He said an amnesty law would “give everyone his rights.”
Hariri’s speech during Saturday’s iftar focused on his family’s long held influence in the region. Highlighting his father’s projects in the area and contributions to the country, Hariri also made note of his aunt and local MP Bahia Hariri.
“Rafik Hariri started here and Bahia Hariri will continue the path. ... Rafik Hariri was honest with the people and so am I. ... We will continue the route [of honesty], which will not be easy, but we only fear God.”
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