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Future: No partnership until Hezbollah leaves Syria

File - Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, center, speaks during a March 14 meeting in Majdalyoun, Sunday, July 7, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s pullout of its fighters from Syria and handing over its arms to the state are essential for any national partnership to be achieved between the feuding parties in Lebanon, the parliamentary Future bloc said Tuesday.

The bloc also lashed out at Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah over his speech Monday on the conflict in Syria in which he claimed that military developments worked in favor of President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Declaring that the speech reeked of “arrogance and conceit,” the bloc accused Nasrallah of waging psychological warfare aimed at misleading the Lebanese that the Syrian regime has won the 31-month war against armed rebel groups fighting to topple it.

“The speech is part of psychological warfare being waged by Hezbollah through which it is attempting to convince the Lebanese of an imminent victory by the Assad regime against the Syrian people and the domination of Persian influence over Lebanon and the region and that this is a destined fate with which the Lebanese, Syrians and Arabs have to adapt,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting.

“But all of this is an illusion that will not happen,” it added.

The Future bloc, which along with its March 14 allies has condemned Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria on the side of Assad’s forces, reiterated its support for the Syrian people’s struggle to regain freedom and bring about change in their country.

“National partnership in Lebanon will not be achieved unless Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Syria, abides by the principles approved by the [National] Dialogue parties in the Baabda Declaration and returns to the state under the state’s conditions,” the bloc said.

This was a reference to President Michel Sleiman’s national defense plan that calls for Hezbollah to place its weapons under the Lebanese Army’s control. The plan was presented during a National Dialogue session last year.

Hezbollah has staunchly rejected local and foreign calls to yield its arsenal of missiles to the Army, arguing that its arms were needed to defend Lebanon against a possible Israeli attack.

The Baabda Declaration, endorsed by the March 8 and March 14 leaders during a National Dialogue session chaired by Sleiman at Baabda Palace in June 2012, calls for “keeping Lebanon away from regional and international conflicts and sparing it the negative repercussions of regional tensions and crises,” particularly in Syria.The Future Movement and its March 14 allies have accused Hezbollah of violating the Baabda Declaration with its military involvement in the Syrian war. Hezbollah had defended its intervention in Syria, arguing that it is needed to protect Lebanon from the threat of Salafist groups.

In a televised speech Monday, Nasrallah said that developments in Syria, including divisions within the ranks of the opposition and the collapse of a U.S.-led military strike against the regime, worked in favor of the Assad regime.

He also urged March 14 parties to accept the 9-9-6 Cabinet plan before it was too late and to stop wagering on developments in Syria’s war to improve their political standing in Lebanon. The Future Movement has rejected the 9-9-6 formula and called instead for a neutral, nonpartisan government.

The Future bloc rejected Hezbollah’s accusations that it was to blame for the seven-month-old Cabinet deadlock.

“Hezbollah is the one imposing conditions, disrupting constitutional institutions, preventing the formation of a new Cabinet and preventing the handover of [five Hezbollah members] accused in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,” the bloc said.

It accused Hezbollah of deploying its gunmen in various Lebanese areas and using its arsenal to subjugate the Lebanese state to its control.

“But the Lebanese people, who have resisted terrorism of [Syrian] tutelage and rejected surrender and submission, will surrender or be defeated now in the face of the wave of arrogance and new terrorism spread by Hezbollah and its followers,” the bloc added.

Future MP Ahmad Fatfat also hit back at Nasrallah over his remarks on Saudi Arabia.

In his speech, Nasrallah accused the kingdom of seeking to derail the Geneva II peace conference on Syria.

“Nasrallah is no longer behaving as a leader or commander, but rather as a Persian implementing Iran’s policy in the region without taking Lebanese or Arab interests into account,” Fatfat said in an interview with MTV.

Hezbollah’s deputy head Sheikh Naim Qassem urged the March 14 coalition to accept “a partnership government” with its March 8 rivals because the alternative is the caretaker Cabinet staying in place.

“The March 14 group is escaping from facing deadlines through obstruction ... They are betting on developments [in Syria] which are not going in their favor. All signs indicate that the resistance axis is moving forward, while the America-Israel axis is moving backward,” Qassem said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 30, 2013, on page 1.

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