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Nasrallah: Assad will survive attempts to bring regime down
Hezbollah supporters, raise their hands in salute as Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks to them via a TV screen from a secret location. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Hezbollah supporters, raise their hands in salute as Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks to them via a TV screen from a secret location. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Friday the regime of Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad will stay in place after the options of military intervention and arming the Syrian opposition have been abandoned. Nasrallah also indirectly called on the opposition March 14 parties to reassess their wagers on the collapse of the Assad regime. He reiterated that only a political solution worked out through dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition can end the yearlong turmoil in Syria.

“The issue of bringing down the [Syrian] regime through a military option is over. This matter was manifested in the international and regional situation. There is a retreat in the international position which has been influenced by the situation on the battlefield [in Syria],” Nasrallah said, referring to recent military successes achieved by government troops against rebel soldiers in a number of Syrian cities, including the rebel stronghold of Homs.

“The armed opposition is unable to topple the regime. This matter is clear. It can occupy a village but regular troops would return to retake it,” Nasrallah said. “Betting on bringing down the regime by military means is a losing bet entailing heavy costs.”

In a televised speech addressing a Hezbollah rally marking the opening of the Sayida Zaynab Complex in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik, Nasrallah said the talk about sending Arab forces to Syria is over. “Also, the talk about arming the opposition in Syria is over at the international and Arab levels because of its dangers,” he said.

While Saudi Arabia and Qatar have come out in favor of arming and funding the Syrian opposition seeking to oust Assad, many Arab and foreign officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, have warned against armament, saying such a move carried the risk of plunging Syria into an all-out civil war.

Nasrallah said regional and international efforts to end the crisis in Syria had swung away from the option of military intervention toward a political settlement that does not clearly call for Assad to step down.

“The world and the [Arab] region have reached [the conclusion] that what is required in Syria is a political solution. We have been calling for this matter since the first day [of the uprising]. Some have called for the downfall of President Assad. But the regional and international climate has bypassed this matter [Assad stepping down],” he said.

Calls for Assad to step aside have been made mainly by the U.S. and its European allies, as well as some Arab countries. An Arab League initiative backed by the U.N. calls for Assad to step down by transferring his prerogatives to his vice president, who would talk to Syrian opposition groups. Syria has rejected the initiative.

Nasrallah cited Annan’s recent involvement in the Syrian crisis as evidence that the international community sought a political solution to end the bloodshed in Syria.

“Ever since Kofi Annan’s arrival in Syria, he has not relied on the Arab League initiative which means that this matter [Arab initiative] is over,” Nasrallah said.

Annan, who was tasked to mediate the Syria crisis, said Tuesday through a spokesman that Assad had accepted the basic terms of a U.N-sponsored peace plan which calls for national dialogue but does not call on him to leave office.

The Hezbollah chief, Assad’s key ally in Lebanon, renewed his call for a dialogue between the regime and opposition groups to reach a political solution for the crisis in Syria.

“What is required today is a dialogue between the regime and the opposition. We have been calling for this matter since the beginning and the Syrian leadership has been ready for it,” Nasrallah said. “What is required in Syria is a political solution for the interests of Syria, the Syrian people and Syria’s strategic position.”

“It has become clear that a solution [in Syria] is a political one through dialogue. There is no other solution,” he added.

Nasrallah also said that dialogue should coincide with reforms as the main pillars for a resolution to end the unrest in Syria.

Nasrallah called on March 14 parties, which staunchly support the uprising against Assad, to reconsider their wagers on the collapse of the regime in Syria.

“Some who are waiting for the results of events in Syria ought to reassess [their position]. It has become clear that the general trend of events in Syria has been decided. There is no need for people in Lebanon to waste time and continue their failed and losing bets,” he said, clearly referring to March 14 politicians.

Turning to domestic issues, Nasrallah said keeping the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati in place was in the country’s interest despite splits and political differences among its members that have stalled its work since it was formed in June last year.

“Concerning the Cabinet, we see that keeping it in place serves the interest of the country and its stability,” he said. He urged ministers to work harder, adding that a clash between the parties making up the Cabinet over key political issues would lead to the collapse of the government.

“In Lebanon, governments fall via politics and stay in office via politics whether they are productive, excellent or unsuccessful,” said Nasrallah. He added that differences among Lebanese over the Syria crisis were acceptable but that these should not imperil the country. “Everyone is entitled to support what they think is appropriate but with preserving Lebanon as much as possible.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 31, 2012, on page 1.
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