Lebanon News

Nasrallah: We will not cause crisis over STL funding

In this frame grab taken from al-Manar TV, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaks during a televised interview on the occasion of Ashura in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (Grace Kassab/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Thursday said the party will not trigger a crisis over the funding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon despite its continued opposition to the move.

"In a bid to preserve political stability and to keep the government intact while reaffirming our opposition [to the court] ... We don't accept the funding but we will not create a problem," Nasrallah said during a televised speech on the occasion of Ashura. 
On the day of Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Shiite Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.
"I ask Prime Minister Najib Mikati to commit to justice ... which stipulates you do justice to those treated unjustly, and they are the four officers including two Sunnis," he added.
Four high-ranking security officials, including former Maj. Gen. Jamil al-Sayyed, were arrested in 2005 following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on suspicion of involvement in the murder. They were released in April 2009.
Nasrallah also asked Mikati to address the issue of false witnesses, who allegedly misled the U.N. investigation into Hariri’s assassination, in the next Cabinet meeting.
The issue of false witnesses, a contentious one between the March 8 and the March 14 groups, was the reason behind the collapse of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Cabinet in January after it refused to refer the issue to the Judicial Council as demanded by Hezbollah.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced he had transferred Lebanon's share of the STL which amounted to $32.6 million. Political sources told The Daily Star the money came from the budget of the prime minister's office and was paid through the Higher Relief Committee. 
Nasrallah also said that Mikati’s warning that he would resign had brought things to a head and was “inappropriate,” creating a Cabinet crisis.
“He placed himself in an awkward position when he was committed to the funding contrary to the desire of the constitutional institution represented by the Cabinet, knowing that the majority rejected [ the funding],” he said
“Prime Minister Najib Mikati took it upon himself and announced [the funding] yesterday. Stemming from his prerogative over the Higher Relief Committee, he took a loan at the expense of the committee … I personally do not know whether this is illegal or constitutional,” Nasrallah added.
Hezbollah and its allies in the March 8 coalition, which holds a majority in Mikati’s Cabinet, have warned that they would block any attempt to fund the tribunal through the government.
A large crowd had gathered, which included head of the Arab Tawheed Party Wiam Wahhab and Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, to watch Nasrallah's address on the fifth day of Ashura.
“Mikati did not discuss the issue in Cabinet because he knew we would vote against it. So he found another way out ... does that mean Hezbollah recognizes the court? No,” the Hezbollah leader said in response to March 14 politicians who have described Mikati’s decision to fund the STL as recognition of the court by the resistance group. 
Hezbollah has accused the U.N.-backed court of being a “U.S.-Israeli” tool aimed at targeting the resistance and sowing sectarian strife in Lebanon. 
In late June, weeks after Mikati formed his Cabinet, the tribunal indicted four Hezbollah members accused of involvement in the assassination of Hariri. The party had denied allegations, saying the four suspects would never be apprehended. 
Nasrallah also urged Mikati and other lawmakers in the Cabinet to be more productive, voicing his support for the demands of his allies in the Change and Reform bloc.
"It is time that government is productive. Do not waste time but bear the responsibility. In this regard, all the demands by the Change and Reform [bloc] are logical and correct and we fully support them,” he said.
Last Friday, nine ministers from the Change and Reform bloc boycotted a Cabinet session in what they claim was a protest against the government’s poor performance. They demanded issues, including the 2012 draft budget, be discussed in Cabinet.
“I hope to continue working in the government because the supreme national interest has always been above all else,” Nasrallah added.






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