Lebanon News

Nasrallah: Multi-party effort to elect new president

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaks during a televised speech in Beirut's southern suburbs, Friday, June 6, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Friday called for a multi-party effort to speed up the election of a new president, asking rival political leaders not to wait for developments in Iranian-Saudi ties to end the stalemate.

Speaking during a ceremony commemorating late Sheikh Mustafa Qassir, Nasrallah also described the presidential election in Syria as “historic,” saying that the president’s win meant that any political solution should involve Bashar Assad.

“If we are the ones disrupting the election [in Lebanon], then you should choose a strong candidate who has a Christian popular base and we could elect them tonight in Parliament, I’m certain Speaker [Nabih] Berri is willing to call for such a session,” Nasrallah said, speaking via a television screen in a Beirut southern suburb.

“But we know who is prohibiting the rightful candidate from acquiring his rights in this country,” he said.

Although MP Michel Aoun, Hezbollah’s main Christian ally, has not publicly announced his candidacy to the presidential election, the former general is the March 8 coalition’s undeclared nominee for the top Christian post.

“I call for a multi-party effort to fulfill this election with the needed result, local efforts of course,” Nasrallah said.

He also asked rival leaders to launch such efforts and “not wait for developments and negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” adding that the Islamic Republic never “imposes conditions on its allies.”

Lebanon plunged into a presidential vacuum on May 25 after former President Michel Sleiman left Baabda Palace without a successor. Lawmakers have struggled to reach a consensus on a single candidate with the March 14 coalition accusing Aoun and the March 8 of disrupting the election.

Nasrallah also said his party was keen on strengthening and maintaining security and stability in the country, calling for an end to “sectarian rhetoric,” which he said hindered the success of any security plan to restore law and order.

“It is our responsibility to strengthen security and stability, and coordinate and cooperate on all levels to help the security plan to succeed,” he said, referring to the recently-launched crackdown in volatile Lebanese regions plagued by the neighboring crisis in Syria.

Nasrallah also denied what he said were allegations accusing Hezbollah and its ally Speaker Nabih Berri of seeking to impose a tripartite power-sharing formula – Shiite, Sunnis and Christians - instead of the Taif Accord’s formula of equality between Christians and Muslims.

“They claim that we are disrupting the presidential election because we want to reach a point of a tripartite power-sharing ... what evidence do you have?” Nasrallah said.

“We have never thought about, demanded or sought such a thing,” he added.

He also said that the idea was first proposed by a French delegation in Tehran, who proposed the three-way power dynamic “because they thought that the Taif Accord was no longer appropriate.”

“That idea never occurred to Iran,” he said.

Nasrallah also spoke extensively on the recent Syrian presidential election, saying millions of people turned out to vote despite mounting pressure on the regime.

“This popular turnout is a historic achievement and it was a triumphant win for Syria ... they did all they can do to prevent the election from taking place,” the Hezbollah leader said.

He also said that some countries based their decision to prevent Syrian expatriates from voting in their embassies on “information they had received that the turnout would be enormous, so they worked hard to prevent the election.”

“If the election was a farce, then they wouldn’t have tried so hard to prevent it,” Nasrallah said.

He also ridiculed the opposition for asking people to refrain from going to the polls under the pretext that the regime had prepared explosive-laden vehicles at several polling stations.

“This is comical because it is in the interest of the regime to have people stand in long lines and come to the polls to vote,” he said, adding that the numbers of people who turned out to vote were “undeniable facts.”

Assad was declared the winner of Tuesday’s presidential election in a landslide victory, capturing 88.7 percent of the vote. The Syrian Supreme Constitutional Court said the turnout for the vote, which took place only in regime-held areas of the neighboring war-ravaged country, was 73.42 percent.

Nasrallah, whose party fighters are engaged in battles alongside regime troops, said the election sent a message to the world that the Syrian government was capable of holding the election, and that Syrians were the only ones allowed to decide their future.

“The election confirmed ... that Syrians were not abandoning their government or giving up on their state ... for the so-called friends of Syria,” he said.

He also described the election as a “public, political declaration that the war against Syria has failed.”

“Whoever wants a political solution cannot disregard the election and the victory of Bashar Assad ... any solution for Syria cannot be based on his resignation such as Geneva 1 or Geneva 2,” he said.

“We say to the regional and international players ... any political solution in Syria begins and ends with Bashar Assad,” he said.

He also asked Syria’s rival factions to end the bloodshed there and launch “dialogue and reconciliation,” to preserve what is left of the war-torn country.

Nasrallah's remarks were an indirect response to U.S. Secretary John Kerry who called on Iran, Hezbollah and Russia to end the Syrian conflict.

During his short visit to Beirut Wednesday, Kerry said called on Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah "to engage in a legitimate effort to bring this war to an end.”





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