BEIRUT/TRIPOLI: Future Movement’s speakers blasted Hezbollah Sunday and reiterated March 14 calls for the government’s resignation as the only way to resolve the political crisis during a rally in north Lebanon to commemorate a top security official slain in a car bomb.
Also Sunday, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called for the formation of a new Cabinet and a new electoral law to ensure fair representation in next year’s parliamentary polls, while former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demanded “a major positive shock” through a government change.
Thousands of March 14 supporters attended the rally organized in the northern city of Tripoli by the Future Movement to commemorate 40 days since Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who headed the police’s Information Branch, was killed in a car bomb in Beirut’s Ashrafieh district on Oct. 19.
Ahmad Hariri, secretary-general of the Future Movement, said his party would not rest before the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Hasan were brought to justice.
“When we demand the toppling of the government, we do so because the government was sponsored by [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, who demanded its formation,” he added. He vowed to avenge Hasan’s killing by defeating the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance in next year’s parliamentary elections.
“We swear by God the Great that as we have evicted the occupying Syrian regime army [from Lebanon] in 2005 as the price for the blood of martyr Rafik Hariri and his colleagues, the price of your precious blood, our beloved Wissam, will be crushing them [March 8 parties] in the next parliamentary elections,” Hariri said.
Strict security measures were in force in Tripoli, as Army units deployed in different areas, particularly in the Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods, where armed supporters and opponents of Assad have frequently clashed.
The rally, attended by Future MPs, March 14 politicians and local dignitaries, was held against the backdrop of tensions in Tripoli over the fate of Lebanese Islamist fighters who were reported to have been killed in an ambush by Syrian troops in the town of Tal Kalakh last week.
In addition to demanding the government’s resignation and Hezbollah’s disarmament, Future MPs voiced strong support for the Syrian armed rebellion against the Assad regime.
Future MP Nohad Mashnouq slammed Prime Minister Najib Mikati, accusing him of failing to address security incidents in Lebanon. He also said the March 14 coalition would not return to National Dialogue before the government’s resignation.
“Haven’t you grown tired of half stances and half words? There is no middle-of-the road between a criminal and a victim. Where is the truth and lies?” Mashnouq said, addressing Mikati. “Your only choice is to lift the curtain to a new national scene in which you take the initiative for a neutral government.”
Mashnouq praised President Michel Sleiman’s stances, but stressed that an inter-Lebanese dialogue, which the president had unsuccessfully tried to convene, had not protected the country from political assassinations.
“What has Dialogue achieved for the martyrs?” asked Mashnouq, addressing the president.
“No, your Excellency Mr. President, don’t put us in a corner of Dialogue. We will return to Dialogue only after the resignation of the government of assassination and under one slogan: ‘No arms except under the state’s command,’” he said, referring to March 14 demands for Hezbollah to hand over its weapons to the Lebanese Army.
Mashnouq also vowed to avenge the death of Hasan. “We will avenge you, Wissam, in Lebanon and in Syria,” he said. He added that the Future Movement’s support for the Syrian revolution was not an accusation, but something to be proud of.
He lashed out at Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah for supporting the Syrian regime. He said Nasrallah’s political blueprint contained nothing but “insult, injustice and suppression.”
Tripoli’s Future MP Mohammad Kabbara accused the Mikati government of representing Hasan’s killer, saying its resignation was “a jihadist duty.”
“Bringing down the government is a right which we exercise. It is even a jihadist duty which we must perform,” he said. “Let’s say it frankly and clearly without ambiguity: Our cause is to stop the killing and punish the killers. Toppling the government is a minor detail in the course of punishing the killers.”
Dinnieh/Minyeh Future MP Ahmad Fatfat slammed Hezbollah, accusing it of seeking to put Lebanon under Iran’s influence. “We are facing a dangerous stage, a stage in which they [Hezbollah] will try to impose Iranian tutelage over Lebanon,” Fatfat told the rally.
“But we say that they must realize that Hasan’s martyrdom has opened the battle for Lebanon’s martyrdom. Therefore, we fear only God. We will face them with a civilian resistance. As we have won over Assad in Lebanon, we will win over the Iranian tutelage,” he added.Meanwhile, Rai called for the formation of a new Cabinet and a new electoral law to ensure a fair representation in next year’s parliamentary polls.
Speaking at a Mass at the Maronite patriarch’s seat in Bkirki, north of Beirut, Rai said the new government should act to resolve the deepening socio-economic crisis in the country.
He urged rival leaders to end their political divisions through dialogue, consultations and national reconciliation. “They must begin with drawing up a new election law suitable for a proper representation in Parliament ... and the principles of equal seats in Parliament [between Christians and Muslims] and sound and calm common coexistence,” Rai said.
For his part, Siniora said he reiterated during a meeting with Sleiman Saturday the March 14 position that the formation of a new Cabinet was the key to resolving the political crisis.
“A major positive shock is needed through the formation of a non-partisan government to oversee [next year’s] parliamentary elections,” Siniora told The Daily Star. “The March 14 stance is still the same: No return to Dialogue before a Cabinet change.” Responding to Siniora’s demand, Sleiman told the head of the parliamentary Future bloc that the Constitution did not empower him to change Cabinets and that this matter was left to the parliamentary majority to decide, a political source told The Daily Star.