French president calls reporter ‘unprofessional’ for revealing that Macron met with terrorist MP.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News.
French President Emmanuel Macron lashed out at a reporter who wrote an article saying Macron had met with a Lebanese member of parliament from the Hezbollah terror organization, the Lebanese news site Naharnet reported Wednesday.
“What you have done, taking into account the sensitivity of the subject, is irresponsible,” Macron told Le Figaro journalist Georges Malbrunot in front of a crowd of people while being recorded by the French TV channel LCI. “I tell you frankly, what you did was grave, unprofessional and mean.”
LCI reported that Macron was incensed by an article Malbrunot wrote that detailed talks he had in Beirut with Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad. If true, it would be the first ever meeting between a French president and an official from Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by several countries including Germany and the United States who refuse to have contacts with it.
“I want to work with you to change Lebanon,” Malbrunot wrote in Le Figaro, saying Macron had called on the Hezbollah lawmaker to “prove that you are Lebanese.”
According to the article, Macron told Raad: “Everyone knows that you have an Iranian agenda. We know your history very well, we know your particular identity, but you are Lebanese, yes or no? You want to help the Lebanese, yes or no?”
Macron called the allegations “the worst nonsense… without any verification,” but the veteran Middle East affairs reporter Malbrunot said he was “very surprised by the virulence of this attack, which is unacceptable.”
The French government has not acknowledged the meeting, but Hezbollah said that talks between Macron and one of its officials had given the movement “international recognition,” the London-based Al Araby television channel reported.
Several French parliamentarians signed a letter to the EU and the Macron government calling on them to designate the Hezbollah political wing as a “terrorist organization.” The EU and France distinguish between Hezbollah’s political and military wings, despite the terrorists being given their directions by the political wing. Britain and Germany recently stopped distinguishing between the branches, declaring the entire organization a terror group.
Macron may also have been angered by another Malbrunot article that said the president was considering sanctions against Lebanese politicians, including those from Hezbollah, who resist calls for reforming the government in the wake of corruption revelations from last month’s Beirut explosion that killed at least 190 people.
Macron was making his second visit to the Lebanese capital after the blast to push for political reform in the country known for its dysfunctional infighting and interference by the Iranian government that funds, arms and directs Hezbollah.
With Lebanese public opinion blaming Hezbollah for the deadly August 4 explosion, the terror group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said he was open to a French proposal for a new political pact in Lebanon.
“We are open to a constructive discussion in this regard,” Nasrallah said, but failed to say what changes he would accept. Nasrallah has been working for decades to get Hezbollah into a stronger position to control Lebanon.