BEIRUT: The parliamentary Future bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri lambasted Tuesday Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s call for the creation of a constituent assembly, saying it was aimed at changing the ruling system and clearing the way for the party to control Lebanon.
While praising President Michel Sleiman’s invitation for an intra-Lebanese National Dialogue, the bloc said it was consulting with its March 14 allies to promote an initiative to save Lebanon that would be presented to the president before the dialogue session convenes on June 11.
“Hezbollah secretary-general’s call for the [establishment] of a constituent assembly is aimed at amending the Constitution and changing the [ruling] system backed by the threat of its arms with a view to fully controlling the Lebanese Republic and diverting attention from the real problem posed by [its] tutelage over the state and its decision-making as a result of the armed coup whose effects have continued since May 2008,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting at Hariri’s residence in Downtown Beirut chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
It was referring to street sectarian clashes between pro- and anti-government gunmen in Beirut and other areas in May 2008 that left more than 80 people dead. The clashes erupted after Hezbollah gunmen and their supporters briefly took over West Beirut to protest a decision by the Siniora government to dismantle the party’s private telecommunications network.
The bloc said that Nasrallah’s declaration coincided with a warning by a senior military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, who said that Hezbollah would fire thousands of rockets on Israel if it attacked Iran’s nuclear sites.
“Safavi’s statement that Iran possesses thousands of missiles in Lebanon and they are in the hands of Hezbollah which will fire them on Israel on Iran’s behalf reveals that [Hezbollah] is an armed regional tutelage force that controls the national decision-making,” the bloc added.
Last week, Safavi was quoted by AFP as saying: “Hezbollah has thousands of missiles ... Hassan Nasrallah is a soldier of the supreme leader ... All places in the Zionist entity are within missile range.”
Nasrallah last week reiterated Hezbollah’s support for National Dialogue but coupled it with a call for the creation of an elected or appointed constituent assembly aimed at building a strong state in Lebanon to end sectarian and political divisions and solve the country’s socioeconomic crisis.
Nasrallah’s call has come under fire from the March 14 parties, which argue that the proposal would sound the death knell for the Taif Accord and the Lebanese formula of equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians.
In its statement, the Future bloc welcomed Sleiman’s invitation to rival leaders in the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc and the opposition March 14 coalition for a new session of National Dialogue at Baabda Palace next week but cautioned against taking decisions that are left unimplemented.
“The bloc, which has never abandoned dialogue as a pattern and a policy in dealing with issues under discussion in Lebanon, again affirms that it is aspiring for a productive and effective dialogue, rather than for a token dialogue, while decisions of previous dialogue sessions are left unimplemented,” the statement said.
The bloc said it was consulting with its March 14 allies to promote “a salvation initiative” which would be presented to Sleiman ahead of the planned dialogue. Although the statement did not state whether the Future bloc would attend National Dialogue, a senior political source told The Daily Star Monday that all parties would participate.
In his invitation for the rival factions, Sleiman said that the all-party talks are aimed at ending political divisions and protecting Lebanon from the reverberations of the 15-month-old turmoil in Syria following deadly clashes between armed supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the northern city of Tripoli and Beirut.
Sleiman, who has visited Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates and Qatar Wednesday as part of an Arab Gulf tour aimed at enlisting these countries’ support for National Dialogue.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met Sleiman at Baabda Palace Tuesday night and discussed the planned dialogue and developments in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, visitors to Baabda Palace said the positive results of Sleiman’s Gulf tour would emerge soon with the convening of National Dialogue table. Arab leaders with whom Sleiman had met have voiced full support for bringing the Lebanese together at one table, the visitors said.
The Arab support for an intra-Lebanese dialogue was matched with support from some Western states, the latest of which was a statement by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who said his country encouraged all Lebanese political parties to attend the planned dialogue.
“This external support for dialogue will be translated through the participation of the country’s main political parties in it. None of these parties can stay out of the dialogue framework,” the visitors said.
They quoted Sleiman as saying that his role as a consensus president since he took office was nearly one of the most difficult roles played by a head of state because he had to deal equally with both the March 8 and March 14 parties.
They added that the extremely complex situation in Lebanon with its multi-sectarian setup requires the continuation of the Dialogue Committee as a collective national institution which, along with the presidency, guarantees safeguarding civil peace and national unity.
The dialogue conference will get a European boost with the upcoming visits to Beirut by the foreign ministers of Germany, Sweden, Poland and Bulgaria to show support for Lebanon’s stability.
March 14 leaders are planning to meet in the next few days to decide on whether to accept Sleiman’s invitation for the new round of national dialogue. – With additional reporting by Antoine Ghattas Saab