BEIRUT: Hezbollah official Sheikh Naim Qassem defended his party Monday against allegations of sectarian bias during the clashes in east Lebanon, adding that the PM-designate should form a Cabinet in consultation with rival groups.
“ Hezbollah was wronged in this incident because we were attacked at our checkpoint, and despite all that, we worked to resolve the situation as soon as possible,” Qassem said during a graduation ceremony at UNESCO Palace.
“Unfortunately, there are those who incite strife and blow small incidents out of proportion without even trying to solve them,” he added, noting that “wise” Sunni and Shiite leaders in the eastern city of Baalbek came together to prevent further escalation.
Four people were killed and five other were wounded Saturday when gunmen from the Sunni Shiyyah family clashed with members of Hezbollah in a personal dispute that turned fatal.
Some Future lawmakers including MP Khaled Daher lashed out at Hezbollah, accusing the party of cleansing Baalbek and the eastern Bekaa Valley from the Sunni community.
Qassem rejected such allegations, saying: “There is someone who is building their leadership based on strife and provocation.”
“Shame on you for continuing on this sinful and wrong path which Islam rejects,” the sheikh, who is also the deputy head of Hezbollah, said.
“Think instead of how to bring people together and have mercy on them and don't incite them in ways that only serve Israel and the U.S.,” he added.
The Hezbollah figure also noted that the resistance group has been exerted efforts to prevent the rise of sectarian strife and works based on three principles that he named to be the liberation of land, maintaining unity and state building.
“ Hezbollah worked hard from several stages to prevent strife and it will continue to do so regardless of the cost and the sacrifices,” he said.
Hours after the incident, Hezbollah handed over two checkpoints in the city to the Army. The checkpoints had been erected two weeks ago after two car bombs exploded in the party’s stronghold.
“Even when the bombings in the southern suburbs took place, we were the first to ask the state to come, erect checkpoints and protect people from car bombs but they said they had no capability to do so,” he said.
“We were forced to fill the gap,” he added.
The Future Movement along with its allies in the March 14 coalition criticized Hezbollah’s so-called “self-security” measures, which entailed setting up checkpoints in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Baalbek and south Lebanon.
Hezbollah also withdrew from the capital’s suburbs after the Interior Ministry announced a security plan last week.
Qassem slammed his rivals in the Future Movement and accused them of rejecting proposals that would lead to state-building and preserve unity, including partaking in a national unity government.
“They are disrupting the Parliament, the government [formation] with their conditions and the prime minister designate’s mission,” he said.
PM-designate Tammam Salam has been struggling to form a new Cabinet for over five months given conditions and counter conditions by rival groups.
“They even ruined the country's unity in their opposition to agreements, partnership and dialogue,” he said.
“What does that mean? It means you want to create a gap in the country but in whose interest?” he asked.
Qassem reiterated his party’s demand for an all-encompassing Cabinet, saying Salam should listen to both sides in the formation process.
“We believe that a unifying government saves the country because they [March 14] want a government that will save their regional employers so they continue to prevent the birth of a new Cabinet, unless it serves the interest of these players because they can't make their own decisions,” he said.
“The prime minister-designate is supposed to work according to those who designated him and we all did so, he should listen to us and not just them,” Qassem added.
The Hezbollah official also noted that the situation in the region would increasingly require a political rather than military solution, criticizing his rivals for being on the “losing side.” Instead, he said, they shoudl learn from Iran.
Qassem said President Hassan Rouhani's speech at the U.N. General Assembly last week vis-a-vis that of President Barack Obama was a testament to Iran's status and power because it never gave in to the sanctions and attempts to isolate it from the international community.
“Shame on some countries in the Arab and Muslim region who are burning Syria and its people for their own interest by bringing in fighters and arms from all over the world,” he said, indirectly criticizing Gulf countries for their support to the Syrian opposition.
Qassem said his party was proud and honored of its alliance with Iran.
“Some criticize us for standing with Iran and benefiting from it. They're embarrassed of those who support them and don't dare to announce who support them,” he said.
“We are honored to have Iran on our side and we say that publicly,” he said.