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Diplomatic crisis with Lebanon over ‘disrespecting Libyan flag’

The diplomatic crisis between Libya and Lebanon intensified on Monday against the backdrop of Lebanese Shia factions, including the Amal movement led by Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, allegedly disrespecting the Libyan flag and attacking Libya’s Embassy in Beirut. The Libyan Government of National Accord announced the cancellation of its participation in the Arab Economic Summit, to be held in Beirut later this week.

“The ministry decided officially not to participate at any level in the summit,” explained the spokesman of the Libyan Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Omar Al-Arbad. “The seat of the State of Libya will be vacant.”

According to Libya’s Foreign Minister, Mohamed Siala, security staff at Beirut Airport refused entry to Libyan businessmen intending to attend the summit. Fawzia Farajani, the President of the Benghazi branch of the Libyan Business Council, announced that she will not attend the Beirut summit, although she had received an invitation from Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri.

The High Council of the Libyan State, meanwhile, has demanded that relations with Lebanon should be severed. It denounced the way that the Amal movement “desecrated” the Libyan flag, because, “Such acts do not represent the brotherly Lebanese people.” The Council’s statement also demanded a clear position on this incident and the exclusion of Lebanon from any Arab event until the authorities in Beirut assume their responsibility and abide by diplomatic norms.

Libya’s flag was removed from the venue of the summit in Beirut, in protest against the arrival of the Libyan delegation. Images of this have been shared across social media. Amal members replaced the Libyan flag with that of their own movement.

The President of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qablan, protested against the invitation for Libya to participate in the summit. He called for an emergency meeting to discuss what he described as the repercussions of the invitation, and stressed the Lebanese constants in following up the issue of the abduction of Imam Musa Al-Sadr and his two companions, Sheikh Mohammed Yacoub and the journalist Abbas Bader El-Dine.

The Shia community in Lebanon holds the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi responsible for the disappearance of Al-Sadr, who was last seen in Libya on 31 August 1978, after arriving with an official invitation along with Yacoub and El-Dine. The former Libyan regime denied the charge consistently, stressing that the three men left Tripoli to go to Italy.

Russia’s Sputnik news agency has revealed that unknown assailants have attacked the Lebanese embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli, and destroyed some of its contents, apparently in revenge for the incident in Beirut. Pictures posted on Twitter showed Libyans vandalising the Lebanese flag on the embassy’s nameplate.

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