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Jumblatt: Disarming Hezbollah would require new Taif

PSP leader Walid Jumblatt attends a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, July 1, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt said in remarks published Friday that nothing short of a new Taif Accord was needed to resolve the issue of Hezbollah’s arsenal.

“I am sure that the Future Movement is pretty aware that when the time comes, the price of disarming Hezbollah will be nothing less than a new Taif Accord,” he told As-Safir newspaper.

The Accord, negotiated in Taif, Saudi Arabia, was the agreement that bought an end to Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War.

Future Movement Ahmad Fatfat swiftly responded Friday, saying Jumblatt’s comments indicate that there is a “political price for Hezbollah’s weapons.”

“This does not surprise me as [Hezbollah] is no longer a resistance party but a militia seeking political gains, and this means that Hezbollah is ready to take Lebanon to a long war because the Taif [Accord] only came after the [Lebanon Civil] war," Fatfat told Voice of Lebanon.

“The Hezbollah issue is primarily regional and Iranian and the solution would be part of a regional solution,” he said.

Jumblatt, who describes himself as a centrist in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, also urged Lebanese to rally around President Michel Sleiman’s defense strategy, which aims to resolve the thorny issue of Hezbollah’s weapons.

The opposition March 14 coalition insists that the resistance group be disarmed while Hezbollah argues it needs its arsenal to defend Lebanon against Israeli aggression.

Jumblatt stressed the need for Dialogue so that a deal could be reached “to neutralize Lebanon from all conflicts that surround it.”

In his interview, the PSP leader also touched on the economy and called for urgent austerity measures to deal with the difficult economic situation in the wake of the decline of Gulf tourism to Lebanon.

“We should adopt an immediate austerity policy to rescue Lebanon from what is awaiting it, particularly in light of signs that indicate that the absence of Gulf tourists may be long,” Jumblatt said.

“The dangers facing Lebanon’s economy are just as the dangers facing civil peace,” he warned.

Jumblatt said the need for austerity measures also come as Arab and Western countries “were no longer willing to provide financial help to Lebanon similar to Paris 1 and Paris 2,” a reference to the international donors conferences that were held in the French capital to raise funds for Lebanon.

“Which means that Lebanon would be left alone and will have to rescue itself,” Jumblatt said.

 

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