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Jumblatt admits dispute with Hezbollah over Syria crisis

In this picture released by Progressive Socialist Party media office, PSP leader Walid Jumblatt speaks during the annual general assembly gathering in Aley, Lebanon, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. (The Daily Star, HO)

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt has admitted that there is a dispute with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah over the crisis in Syria, now in its tenth month.

“Both sides [the PSP and Hezbollah] know each other’s position on Syria. But the problem lies in that the party [Hezbollah] holds on to its position,” Jumblatt told Al-Akhbar newspaper in an interview published Wednesday.

In response to a question as to whether he had requested to meet Nasrallah, Jumblatt said: “I did not and will not ask for a meeting.”

However, the PSP chief acknowledged that dialogue with Hezbollah was essential to protect the country from ramifications of the unrest in its neighbor.

The United Nations estimates over 5,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, have been killed in a crackdown by Damascus, which has faced anti-government protests since

“Dialogue with Hezbollah is important in order to spare the country any repercussions of what is happening or will happen in Syria,” Jumblatt said, adding: “This [Syria] is the point of contention. So what’s the use of debate?”

Jumblatt also said Deputy Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman had also told him during his visit to Lebanon that “Americans, too, encourage dialogue with Hezbollah. They also praise [Prime Minister Najib] Mikati’s management of political issues.”

“This is a significant shift compared to their [U.S.] position a year ago,” Jumblatt added.

He said that regular meetings between the PSP and Hezbollah are aimed at maintaining security and stability in mixed Druze-Shiite-Sunni regions of Lebanon, particularly in Shoueifat and surrounding areas, all the way to Iqlim al-Kharroub, southeast of Beirut.

The PSP chief also praised Mikati for having managed to spare the country of civil strife and said there was a need for the Cabinet to remain.

While he described as “good” his relationships with both President Michel Sleiman and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the PSP chief said there is “no row” with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.

However, Jumblatt criticized Labor Minister Charbel Nahhas, a member in Aoun’s FPM, over his controversial wage hike proposal, voicing agreement with a deal reached between the private sector and the General Labor Confederation.

 

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