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Tensions Flare Between WCCR Director and Lebanon's Foreign Minister at D.C. Reception

Written by W. Thomas Smith Jr.

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September 27, 2008
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
No fisticuffs reported, but attendees at a Washington, D.C. reception Thursday evening witnessed a caustic exchange between John Hajjar, U.S. director of Lebanon's pro-democracy World Council of the Cedars Revolution, and Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, an ally of the Hezbollah terrorist organization.

According to sources, at approximately 7:00 p.m. (Eastern), Hajjar was introduced "in a surprise move" to Salloukh at a reception for Lebanese Pres. Michel Sleiman hosted by the Lebanese ambassador at D.C.'s Omni Shoreham Hotel. (Sleiman was in town this week meeting with Pres. Bush and senior administration officials.)

When Salloukh extended his hand, Hajjar refused his; putting his hand in his pocket.

"I will not shake hands with people working for Hezbollah!" Hajjar said.

Salloukh responded, "You should leave here!"

Hajjar replied, "No! you should leave here! I'm an American citizen!"

There was a temporary hush in the immediate area of the reception room. Attendees were reportedly sitting their drinks on tables, anticipating some level of escalation. Both men walked away.

A few hours following the reception, I spoke briefly by phone with Hajjar who confirmed the incident.

"I also said to Salloukh, ‘Are you Lebanese or an Iranian? Choose!'" said Hajjar. "He was stunned, end of conversation. It's amazing to think that these people believe they can ‘make nice' at cocktail parties and maybe go to your kids' weddings, and then the next day they are lobbing bombs or trying to assassinate you."

Tom Harb, secretary general of the WCCR, later told me: "We must also recognize that many in the Lebanese-American community have been - and are - critical of the fact that a pro-Hezbollah minister accompanied the new president of Lebanon to Washington, D.C. But according to diplomatic protocol, Lebanon's foreign minister must accompany the president. This means that Iran's eyes follow President Sleiman wherever he goes. Sleiman should not have brought Salloukh with him to Washington."

Today, Naharnet is reporting: "Washington has criticized Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh for allegedly leaking to the media details on the summit discussion between President George Bush and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman [Sleiman] at the White House. [More here]"

In an international environment that is increasingly soft-soaping and lending legitimacy to butchers like Hezbollah and their allies - the fact that the likes of Salloukh would even be attending a cocktail party in the nation's capital (one-month before the 25th anniversary of early Hezbollah's bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, and less than five months after Hezbollah's murderous rampage in Lebanon) is beyond reason - I salute Hajjar.

But after all, I'm an old Marine rifleman.

- Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. online at uswriter.com.

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