Lebanon News

Hezbollah accuses US of meddling in Lebanon's crisis

Lebanon's Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem speaks during an interview with Reuters in Beirut's suburbs, Lebanon November 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Aziz Taher)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah accused the United States of meddling in the formation of a new Lebanese government Friday, its strongest accusation yet of U.S. interference in Lebanon's political and economic crisis.

As Lebanon grapples with the worst economic crisis since its 1975-90 civil war, Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem told Reuters he did not see signs of a new conflict. Hezbollah would not be dragged into strife, he said.

He also said the economic crisis which has spread to the banking system was hitting the Shiite group's followers along with everyone else in Lebanon. Hezbollah backed putting corrupt officials on trial "regardless of who they are", he added.

"The first obstruction in the formation of the government is America, because it wants a government that resembles it and we want a government that resembles the Lebanese people," Kassem said. The crisis would continue, he said, until foreign parties gave up on trying to achieve their goals.

U.S. officials had been in direct contact with Lebanese politicians and officials, he said. "Let them leave us alone so we can reach an understanding among ourselves. The more they intervene the more they delay the solution."

Though they hold a parliamentary majority, Shiite Hezbollah and allies including the Christian Free Patriotic Movement continue to seek a deal with Hariri over a government which they say should include both politicians and technocrats.

Asked why Hezbollah and its allies had not opted to form a cabinet on their own, Kassem said the group preferred the prime minister be chosen through agreement with the main parties.

"There are continuous contacts between Hezbollah and Prime Minister Hariri to pick the prime minister," Kassem said.

The United States has said it stands by protesters who are demanding reforms and an end to corruption, and that it is ready to work with a new government that can build a stable, prosperous and independent Lebanon.

Kassem said the first step towards dealing with the crisis would be the formation of a government which should start by implementing an emergency economic plan after amending it if necessary.

The causes of the crisis included by bad policies and corruption, he said.

"We support the people 100 percent in putting the corrupt on trial," he said. "The corrupt must stand trial in Lebanon regardless of who they are ... we support all measures that limit corruption and that recover looted wealth."

The protests in Lebanon have been overwhelmingly peaceful despite occasional confrontations.





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