BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition called on the Lebanese people Tuesday to rally around its plan to topple Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, describing Lebanon as a country in danger.
The coalition announced it will boycott the current Cabinet and use all democratic ways, including popular protests, to realize its goal.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, reading a statement following a meeting of March 14 leaders at former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s residence in Beirut, said the opposition would not remain silent after the Oct. 19 assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.
March 14 accuses Syrian President Bashar Assad of being behind the killing and holds Mikati responsible.
“In order to face the dangers threatening Lebanon and based on the fact that we are against taking the confrontation to the streets, the March 14 coalition announces its total boycott of this government and is determined to use all democratic means, including popular protests to achieve its goals,” the statement said.
Siniora reiterated his coalition’s call for the formation of a neutral government to replace the current one, adding that the new government should distance Lebanon from regional conflicts, as stated in the Baabda Declaration.
“This government should go immediately and a neutral salvation government should be formed to face the dangers threatening Lebanon and oversee next year’s parliamentary elections,” the statement said.
“The battle today is not just to bring down the government, and it is not a battle to replace the government of Hezbollah with a government of March 14,” the statement added.
“The battle is to face the dangers that beset Lebanon and that cannot be faced by a government which lost the confidence of the majority of the Lebanese.”
Addressing the Lebanese people, the statement concluded: “This Lebanon is in danger, the nation is in danger, the state is in danger, freedom is in danger, the Lebanese citizen is in danger, your future and the future of your children are at risk, and therefore we cannot act loosely anymore. Stand with us against the status quo that has been imposed on you and on your country.”
Mikati said national disputes should only be resolved through dialogue, criticizing the opposition’s decision to boycott government work, as well as talks aimed at resolving the crisis.
“National issues are not resolved via stubbornness, arrogance or reactionary stances but through dialogue in order to develop common goals shared by Lebanese to fortify the nation under these dangerous regional circumstances,” Mikati’s office quoted him as saying.
He added that he would remain in office to fulfill his responsibilities in order to prevent a power vacuum.
A day after the assassination, Mikati offered to resign and President Michel Sleiman tried to consult with the National Dialogue committee to resolve the government crisis.
But Sleiman was unable to convince March 14 to join talks, with the coalition insistent on Mikati’s resignation as a prerequisite for their attendance, and the prime minister subsequently said he would not step down until an agreement on a new Cabinet was reached.
The premier met later Tuesday with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt at the latter’s residence in Mukhtara.
Jumblatt had joined March 14 in accusing Assad of being behind Hasan’s killing, but parted ways with the coalition over the fate of the Mikati Cabinet after he turned down a request by Hariri to pull his ministers from the government.
Siniora said after the March 14 meeting Tuesday there are four dangers threatening Lebanon: the return of assassinations, the Syrian regime’s decision to destabilize the country, Hezbollah’s provocation of Israel to wage war against Lebanon, and the power monopoly that is being imposed through the threat of Hezbollah’s arms.
The March 14 statement called on Hezbollah to hand over the four party members accused of being behind the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and a suspect who is believed to be linked to a failed plot to kill MP Boutros Harb.
The statement called for referring Hasan’s killing, as well as all the assassinations in the country since 2004, to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
The coalition reiterated its earlier calls to deploy the Lebanese Army along the border with Syria and to request assistance from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon to help the Army in controlling the northern and eastern borders.
The statement also called for filing a complaint against the Syrian regime before the Arab League over the Samaha-Mamlouk plot, referring to a failed plan to destabilize the country that was uncovered by the late Hasan.
The plan involved the targeting of March 14 politicians and was spearheaded by former Minister Michel Samaha, who said while in custody that he had received orders from Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk.
The March 14 statement also demanded that Hezbollah hand over its military arsenal to the Lebanese state and called for ending the Palestinian armed presence.
The opposition is expected to step up protests against the Mikati government in the coming days and is considering launching a campaign of civil disobedience, March 14 sources told The Daily Star.
The sources added that Siniora had informed opposition leaders during a weekend meeting at the residence of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea in Maarab that Hariri is determined to force the government to resign and that Saudi Arabia backs the opposition’s demand for a new Cabinet that is not headed by Mikati.
Meanwhile, government sources said the opposition had no international backing to oust Mikati’s Cabinet and that the personal attacks against the prime minister following Hasan’s assassination led to a change of heart on his part.
The sources added that forcing Mikati to resign using street pressure is no longer possible and challenged the opposition to take the issue to Parliament by requesting a no-confidence vote.
U.N. Special Coordinator to Lebanon Derek Plumbly said Lebanon’s security remains a priority for the international community.
“Our priority remains Lebanon’s security and stability during this period. We are all waiting to see the outcome of the consultations that President Michel Sleiman is undertaking with the political leaders in Lebanon and we hope that those consultations will produce a result satisfactory to all Lebanese parties,” he said.