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Future slams Mikati as cloak for Hezbollah government
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BEIRUT: The Future Movement blasted Prime Minister Najib Mikati Tuesday, saying he acted as a “façade to a Hezbollah-controlled” government, one day after its formation.

The Future Movement said the new government sought a confrontation with the international community on the domestic and regional levels, in line with the Syrian regime’s decision to resort to force to crush the opposition.

“He [Mikati] chose to serve [Hezbollah’s] weapons and its military force, as [the Syrian regime] chose the military approach rather than political and administrative reforms,” the Future Movement parliamentary bloc said in a statement following its meeting.

The statement added that the new Cabinet would seek to serve the interests of Hezbollah’s weapons in Lebanon and to renounce the country’s commitments to the international and Arab communities, warning of a Hezbollah plan to unilaterally seize power in the future.

“Experience has taught us that totalitarian parties begin their coup by introducing [to power] figures who appear independent, before those parties decide to take power through repression,” it said, hinting at Mikati’s role as “a façade” to mask Hezbollah’s grip on power.

“The danger of this disease spreading to Lebanon is a serious possibility under this government, more than any time in the past,” the statement added.

In an attempt to ease concerns over Hezbollah’s role in the new government, Mikati had reassured the Lebanese and Western states that his government would not place Lebanon at odds with the international community, despite the fact that Hezbollah and its allies hold a majority of seats.

However, Mikati did not make clear how he would act with regard to Lebanon’s commitment to cooperate with the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination, a tribunal which Hezbollah has dubbed a U.S.-Israeli plot to corner the party.

Mikati was designated prime minister by Hezbollah and its allies after they had ousted former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government following its refusal to halt its cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Shortly after announcing his government lineup, Mikati said that while Hezbollah and its allies have a majority of seats in the Cabinet, it does not follow that Lebanon will relinquish its relations with the international community.

Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat said Syria pressed for the formation of a new government to guarantee an ally in the United Nations Security Council, in anticipation of future confrontations with the international community.

“This government includes a sweeping majority that totally rejects the STL, which will be its first confrontation. But the largest confrontation will be the position of the government with regard to regional developments and Syria’s affairs,” Fatfat said in reference to Syria’s internal unrest.

Fatfat’s colleague Ammar Houri described the government as Syria’s first regional “defense line” against regional movements demanding change, under which opposition against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Baath ruling party has intensified.

The Syrian authorities had accused March 14 groups of aiding opposition groups, which created suspicions that the new government intended to replace key judicial and security officials regarded as outside Hezbollah and Syria’s influence with figures loyal to Damascus and its allies.

Warning against such “vengeful steps,” the Future Movement parliamentary bloc said in its statement that it will fiercely confront such attempts.

“We will confront such practices with determination and we will not stand neutral with regard to vengeful steps,” the statement said.

Suspicions rose over Hezbollah’s intention to make new appointments in the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, which played an important role in aiding the STL with its investigations.

The changes in key security posts are believed to be aimed to put an end to cooperation between Lebanese security apparatus and the STL.

The U.S. warned Monday the new Cabinet of seeking retribution against former government officials, saying it would judge the new Lebanese government “by its actions,” including its commitment to international obligations.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner urged the new government to renounce violence, “including efforts to exact retribution against former government officials,” and live up to all its international obligations.

Echoing the Future Movement, its allies in the March 14 alliance said the Cabinet represented “Damascus’ government in Beirut” and was intended to confront the international community.

Kataeb (Phalange) Party leader Amin Gemayel said Syria would exploit the new government to strengthen its position in its tug of war with the international community.

Gemayel added that Mikati’s government would deepen divisions among the Lebanese and would fail to achieve anything, given restraints on its framework and actions.  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 15, 2011, on page 2.
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