Lebanese protesters mae their feelings known about Syria's President Assad
Lebanese protesters make their feelings known about Syria's President Assad

Debate about the infiltration of al-Qaeda fighters into Syria is raging in Lebanon.

Controversy started in December when Lebanon's defence minister, Fayez Ghosn, said that al-Qaeda fighters were present in Lebanon and infiltrating Syria.

A few days later, 44 people were killed in a bomb attack in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The Syrian regime blamed the bombing on terrorists and a government spokesperson said Lebanon had warned the authorities about al-Qaeda's presence.

"The Lebanese authorities warned us that an al-Qaeda group infiltrated Syria from [north Lebanon town of] Arsal," Jihad Makdesi said.

Members of various political parties making up the March 14 Alliance, a parliamentary coalition led by MP Saad Hariri, younger son of assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, have accused the minister of actively supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's propaganda.

Since the beginning of the uprising against his regime, the Syrian leader has insisted that shadowy armed groups and not the army are responsible for the thousands of civilian deaths.

Saad Hariri took to Twitter to repeat allegations that Ghosn's comments were another fabrication by the Syrian regime.

"The whole story about al-Qaeda's presence in Lebanon is clearly a fabrication concocted by Syrian intelligence and was denied by another minister," said Hariri.

Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea said the remarks were part of an attempt by the Syrian government to manipulate the facts.

"The remarks about the defence minister's statements reflect deception and manipulation," Geagea told Al-Rai Kuwaiti newspaper.

"The fact that the defence minister makes a statement to serve the Syrian regime at the expense of Lebanon's reputation is something we cannot understand or accept."

Both Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati have denied Ghosn's claims but tensions have refused to die down.

Ghosn is seen by many as a strong ally of Hezbollah, a movement that actively supports Assad.

The defence minister could now be forced to explain his controversial statement to the Lebanese parliament's defence, interior and municipalities committee.

"As Lebanese Forces, we filed a question to the Cabinet which will turn into an official inquiry and we will subject the minister to a vote of confidence during a session [to discuss the policy of the Cabinet]," George Adwan, an FL official told a news conference.

"Exploiting the issue of al-Qaeda's presence and tying Lebanon through Arsal to everything that is happening in Syria is very dangerous and harms the country," he added.