By Leila Hatoum

BEIRUT: The speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament insisted Thursday that Damascus "welcomes and encourages" the Lebanese national dialogue and "has no problems with it." Nabih Berri, who made the comments during a celebration of Liberation Day six years after the Israeli withdrawal from most of the country’s Southern territories, said: "Lebanon is being used to besiege Syria and Syria is being used to hit the last vestiges of resistance and defense line against Israel in Lebanon.

"This way we will all be losers," he warned. "I call for the establishment of a true Lebanese-Syrian dialogue.

"I wonder why things are always portrayed in such a way that Syria is the one that stands as a barrier in the face of demands imposed on it," he added. "Lebanon, on many occasions has refused proposals as well."

Lebanese participants at the national dialogue table – as well as UN Security Council Resolution 1680 – have requested that Syria establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon and demarcate the countries’ border.

Syria has not yet given Lebanese Premier Fouad Siniora the green light to visit Damascus to discuss these matters, despite the fact that Resolution 1680, issued last week, "strongly encourages the Syrian government" to do so.

Berri had stormed out of a Parliament session Tuesday after a heated debate with MP and former Minister Bahij Tabbara, suspending it less than an hour after its start. The conflict with Tabbara was over Syrian-Lebanese relations, when Tabbara asked: "We want to know if the open doors to our officials in Syria were those of Syria’s prison doors, or what?"

Berri had made a statement on Monday that "Damascus’ doors are open for any Lebanese official," referring to a possible open road for Siniora to visit Damascus.

Berri refused to answer Tabbara’s question and demanded that the MP address the issues to be discussed on the agenda, or else he would leave, which he did eventually, as Tabbara insisted on having an answer to his original question.

Berri also spoke Thursday of the disputed Shebaa Farms, the "Lebanese territory, which Israel currently occupies."

He said: "The Zionists had set their eyes on that land even before Israel was established. These Farms are Lebanese, not Syrian and not Israeli."

He added: "The Shebaa Farms have the second largest water reservoir in the Middle East, the first being in the Cedars – also in Lebanon."

According to Berri, the Farms also have the best ski resorts and are the source of three main rivers.