BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future parliamentary bloc slammed Hezbollah Tuesday for orchestrating what it called “a provocative media campaign” against Hariri, warning that such tactics would further heighten political tension in the country.
A statement issued after the bloc’s weekly meeting said Hezbollah’s weapons, which liberated the country from Israeli occupation in 2000, have lost their legitimacy after they had been used against fellow Lebanese and after the party protected four of its members accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The bloc’s statement came three days after Hariri accused Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah of sponsoring “hatred media campaigns” against the Hariri family, in a reflection of escalating political tension between the March 8 and March 14 parties that cast a pall of gloom over President Michel Sleiman’s call for national dialogue. A statement issued by Hariri’s press office Saturday said the media campaigns were aimed at distorting the image of Rafik Hariri, his family and his political and national path.
During its meeting Tuesday, the Future bloc discussed the “continuing provocative media campaign” launched by the March 8 media outlets against Hariri personally.
“The aim of this campaign has become clear to everyone. It is an attempt to shatter the personal and leadership image of [former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri,” said the statement read to reporters by Future MP Atef Majdalani.
“It has become clear that this campaign is launched at the request of Hezbollah specifically in order to protect the present government and mount a preventive attack with a view to weakening the political image of the Future Movement and the March 14 parties,” it added.
“Hence, the Future bloc sees that concentrating personally on [former] Prime Minister Hariri by raising personal matters is a proof of bankruptcy in logic and political argument on the part of the other side,” the statement said.
Warning of the consequences of this campaign on the country’s stability, the statement added:
“In this context, the bloc warns that such methods might take the country to a different atmosphere that would cover everyone and whose consequences would not be confined to one side.”
Media outlets close to the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance said recently that the Hariri-owned Saudi Oger Company was facing financial difficulties.
Referring to Sleiman’s call for national dialogue, the Future bloc said that by rejecting that its arms be the topic of discussion, Hezbollah wanted to confiscate the results of dialogue even before it began.
“Hezbollah has forgotten that the resistance’s arms, which liberated the south, have lost their legitimacy after they were used against fellow Lebanese in the capital and [other] areas and after they protected those accused of assassinating martyr [former] Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions,” the statement said.
“Therefore, what was permissible in the past is no longer permissible following violations that made arms lose their previous legitimacy and put them in the position of accused and suspected with the aim of taking control of authority and imposing opinion [on others] as was proven by the coup staged to change the [Parliament] majority and form the current government,” it added.
The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon issued its indictment on June 30, accusing four Hezbollah members of involvement in Hariri’s assassination and demanded their arrest. Nasrallah has rejected the indictment, vowing that the accused would be not arrested “even in 300 years.”
The bloc’s statement came amid a heated controversy set off by President Sleiman’s call for national dialogue between rival leaders to end their political divisions which are threatening to destabilize the country.
While Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Nasrallah and March 8 parties endorse Sleiman’s call, Hariri and his March 14 allies have voiced skepticism, insisting that Hezbollah’s arms should be the only topic for discussion, or else they will not attend. Hezbollah has declared that its arms will not be the topic of any dialogue but is ready to discuss a national defense strategy to protect Lebanon against a possible Israeli attack.
Meanwhile, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun defended Hezbollah’s arms, saying the arms were “a normal reaction” to Israeli occupation. “Hezbollah’s arms can be discussed through a defense strategy,” Aoun told reporters at the weekly meeting of his Parliamentary bloc.