BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned Monday that the alternative to dialogue among rival political leaders was chaos.
He also rejected repeated demands by the opposition March 14 coalition for Hezbollah to surrender its weapons to the Lebanese Army, saying that there was no alternative for the resistance to retain its arms in the face of Israel’s threats to attack Lebanon.
“I hope that the parties in Lebanon will not put conditions on dialogue and that the Lebanese will be able to talk to each other because the alternative to dialogue is chaos, which is intended to be spread in the region,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
“There is no choice but to sit and launch dialogue as no one aims to eliminate the other. I hope that they [the March 14 figures] are allowed to continue dialogue,” he added.
Addressing an iftar banquet held by Hezbollah’s women committee south of Beirut, Nasrallah said that dialogue is the means to dispel fears regarding the party’s arsenal. Nasrallah’s speech came as the March 14 coalition has yet to decide on whether to attend a new round of National Dialogue scheduled next week to discuss defense strategy.
President Michel Sleiman
last month postponed a third session of intra-Lebanese National Dialogue until Aug. 16, in a move reflecting continuing rifts between rival political leaders over the thorny issue of Hezbollah’s arms and the release of telecoms data.
Now that the issue of telecoms data has been settled after the government approved the release of data to security bodies, the March 14 coalition has called on Hezbollah to clarify its position on the discussion of its arms as part of a national defense strategy.
Nasrallah also rejected March 14 allegations that his party sought to control the state, saying: “We never did and would never do such a thing.”
He said Hezbollah had the opportunity to control the state when its gunmen briefly took over West Beirut during street clashes in May 2008 between pro- and anti-government supporters, but it did not.
Nasrallah rejected March 14 allegations that Hezbollah’s arms prevented the rise of a true state in Lebanon. He said sectarianism and rampant corruption in the public administration were the main obstacles to the establishment of such a state.
“There is a fundamental problem. You cannot build a national, modern state based on sectarian quotas, leverage and disputes. No true state can be created but the one we are living in now,” Nasrallah said.
He added that political corruption and a lack of national affiliation also stood in the way of a genuine state.
The Hezbollah chief spoke of the fear of Hezbollah’s arms being solely in the hands of one party and one sect, but said that there was no real alternative to the resistance party in defending Lebanon against Israeli aggression. He stressed that Hezbollah’s military might provided a deterrent force against any possible Israeli attack on Lebanon.
“Is there a deterrent force equal to the resistance’s capabilities?” he asked. “For the Army to become a deterrent force it requires reinforcements if it is to at least equal the strength of the Israeli army. We must have an air force similar to the Israeli army,” he said.
He added that there has not yet been any initiative to strengthen the military.
The March 14 coalition insists that Hezbollah’s arsenal be incorporated into the Lebanese Army, while Nasrallah has said that cooperation between Hezbollah and the military would serve as a better defense mechanism.
Nasrallah said that Israel’s primary fear in the region was the resistance party, which served as a deterrent for attacks against Lebanon.
“For Israel, the resistance is considered the main threat to its interests,” Nasrallah said. He also condemned Sunday’s attack in the Sinai peninsula that killed 15 Egyptian guards, lamenting that the perpetrators linked the incident to Islam and the resistance.