BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s call for developing a strategy to liberate Lebanese territory still occupied by Israel alongside a national defense strategy drew criticism from rivals in the March 14 coalition Thursday.
Akkar MP Riad Rahhal, from the Future Movement, said Nasrallah’s call was an attempt to sidestep the real topics of National Dialogue.
“Nasrallah’s call for a strategy of liberation in addition to a defense strategy is a diversion in the direction of the National Dialogue table to come up with an excuse for his illegitimate arms,” Rahhal said after holding talks with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at his residence in Maarab.
Rahhal said Hezbollah began using its arms like a militia following the events of May 2008, describing them as a cause of chaos.
Nasrallah said in a speech Wednesday that in addition to a national defense strategy, Lebanon also needed a strategy of “liberation of the Kfar Shouba Hills and Shebaa Farms still occupied by Israel.”
He explained that a genuine national defense strategy should be based on coordination between the Lebanese Army and the resistance.
The March 14 coalition boycotted a National Dialogue session that was scheduled for July 24 after head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc MP Mohammad Raad said it was pre-mature to discuss a national defense strategy, adding that the country was in need of a strategy of liberation. Attendees had been set to discuss a defense strategy during the session.
Fares Soueid, the general coordinator of the March 14 coalition, said that Nasrallah had to choose between engaging in a strategy of liberation or adhering to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended Israel’s summer 2006 war against Lebanon.
“Let Sayyed Nasrallah, President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati announce the fall of the 1701 and summon U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly to the presidential palace and inform him of the matter,” Soueid told the Central News Agency.
“Let them ask him to pull out the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon and we will then engage together in a strategy of liberation,” he added.
For his part, Zahle MP Elie Marouni, from the Kataeb (Phalange) Party, said Nasrallah reiterated in his speech his party’s insistence on retaining arms.
“If we give the Lebanese Army political support ... then it should be the only force that protects us,” the lawmaker told a local radio station.
Future bloc lawmaker Hadi Hobeish, who interpreted the speech slightly differently, said Nasrallah’s call for discussing a strategy for liberation along with a national defense strategy indicated a willingness to discuss a defense strategy, unlike Raad who refused to discuss a defense strategy until the remaining Israeli occupied Lebanese territories were liberated.