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Future MPs: Hariri to return to Beirut soon

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BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is planning to return to Beirut soon, ending a three-month absence, in a move likely to intensify the March 14 coalition’s opposition against the Hezbollah-dominated government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, MPs from Hariri’s parliamentary Future bloc said Monday.

“[Former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Beirut is normal after [a few] months absence. It will give more momentum to the opposition, the Future Movement and the March 14 coalition,” Future MP Atef Majdalani told The Daily Star by telephone.

“We are against this government and the way it was formed. This is a coup government, a Hezbollah government,” Majdalani said. “Our declared goal is to bring down this government.”

Future MP Nuhad Mashnouq said March 14 leaders will consult on “a working paper” to deal with the Mikati government.

“This working paper seeks to eliminate the causes that led to the formation of this government: The domination of arms in political life and in the constitution,” Mashnouq told The Daily Star.

Since his government was toppled by the Hezbollah-led alliance on Jan. 12 in a long-simmering dispute over the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is probing the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Hariri and his March 14 allies have launched blistering campaigns against Hezbollah, accusing the party of using its weapons to influence political life in Lebanon. They called on Hezbollah to put its arsenal under the Lebanese Army Command.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makkari from the March 14 coalition said Hariri’s return to Beirut will be “very soon,” probably before Ramadan.

“The opposition’s future steps will be decided following an imminent meeting of March 14 leaders,” Makkari told the Central News Agency.

Mohammad Shattah, a political adviser to Hariri, said the presence of the Future Movement leader in Beirut will make “a lot of difference” to the opposition movement. However, he said whether Hariri is in Beirut or abroad, the opposition’s attitudes have been declared by the Future Movement and the March 14 parties.

An-Nahar newspaper Monday quoted sources close to Hariri as saying that the Future Movement leader will return to Beirut in the first days of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan which begins on Aug. 1. The paper said Hariri will host Iftar (fast-breaking meals) at the BIEL conference hall during which he is expected to speak on the confrontation between the opposition and the government.

Hariri and the March 14 parties have accused Hezbollah of staging a coup that led to the formation of Mikati’s 30-member in which the party and its March 8 allies have a majority.

During an MTV interview on July 12, Hariri blamed both Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah for the toppling of his Cabinet.

Hariri said he stayed outside Lebanon for three months to give the rival March 8 coalition a chance to form a government. “I will return to Beirut as soon as possible,” Hariri said, refusing to give an exact date on his return.

Hariri dismissed reports that he was in exile due to security concerns, saying: “Threats have been around since 2005,” referring to the period following the assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri.

Future MP Ahmad Fatfat said Monday, national interest would determine Hariri’s return to Lebanon. “His absence was to avoid anything that could lead to internal strife,” Fatfat told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. “When Hariri feels that the political circumstances are suitable, he will return.”

With his return, “Hariri will rebut a lot of rumors, gossip and wishes by the other side [March 8 alliance] which is trying to assassinate [former] Prime Minister Hariri through the organized campaign launched on him by print and broadcast media outlets that are trying to target the Hariri family and their political line and path,” Houri told Asharq radio station.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 26, 2011, on page 1.
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