The Daily Star (Lebanon)
Tripoli removes political banners after poster set on fire
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Authorities removed all political posters and banners in Tripoli Sunday after a poster of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was burned in the city over the weekend.
Ramzi Nohra, governor of North Lebanon oversaw the removal of various posters that depicted the crown prince, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, former premier Najib Mikati and former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi.
Nohra, who was responding to instructions from Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to remove the banners, was accompanied by a number of security officers.
“This campaign is ongoing and we will not allow anyone to hang political pictures and slogans in public streets and to challenge the state,” the governor said, adding that Machnouk’s orders in this regard were very strict.
‘Salman’s posters are placed in our hearts and not on the streets’
Rifi requested that Tripoli’s residents refrain from engaging with security forces while the removal of the posters was underway.
The burning of the poster of the Saudi crown prince Saturday evening also resulted in a Twitter spat between Machnouk and Rifi.
Rifi wrote that he “questioned the reason behind removing the posters of Saudi leaders but could not find any explanation for the interior minister to do so except to curry favor with Hezbollah.”
The dispute came at a tense time in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, sparked by Hariri’s shock resignation, which was announced on Nov. 4 while the premier was in Riyadh.
During his resignation speech, Hariri railed against the influence of Iran in the region and in Lebanon via Hezbollah.
“The burning of bin Salman’s poster is condemned, manipulated and suspicious. … Its perpetrator is known, and the Interior Ministry must stop him without delay to hold him accountable,” Rifi said Saturday night in a tweet commenting on the incident. “This poster will remain in Tripoli because it represents the historic friendship between Lebanon and the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia].”
Machnouk condemned the “unfortunate act,” adding that the incident was “suspicious at a sensitive moment, when some are working to create such incidents in order to drag the country into further tension.”
Machnouk also responded to Rifi on Twitter, writing: “Salman’s posters are placed in our hearts and not on the streets so that a hater can burn them.”
Rifi then replied: “The places where we put our posters can’t be reached by haters, and if you [Machnouk] want to remove posters, begin with the airport road. Then, when you arrive to Tripoli, we [can] talk.”
Amal Movement and Hezbollah posters and flags are up along the road to Beirut’s international airport.
Hariri’s Future Movement also weighed in on the Tripoli incident.
“Dubious people burning posters of Saudi leaders in Tripoli is a suspicious and condemnable act,” a Future statement said, adding that “[this incident] has nothing to do with the morals of the people of Lebanon or Tripoli, who preserve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership in its historic role as a supporter of Lebanon and its people.”
Mikati said in a statement that “Tripoli does not accept any violent act targeting those who have stood by Lebanon and its people.” He went on: “We deplore the burning of pictures of Saudi leaders, and this act does not represent Tripoli’s people.” –