BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed Thursday Hezbollah’s arms and what he said were attempts to monopolize and exploit the Shiite sect in Lebanon, reiterating his commitment to the March 14 coalition.
“The existence of the Shiites in Lebanon goes back to more than 1,000 years, while Hezbollah is a phenomenon that appeared with Iran, thirty years ago,” said Hariri speaking via a giant screen at memorial ceremony for the eighth anniversary of his father’s assassination.
Hariri said that Hezbollah spreads concern among Shiites over the fate of their sect in order to keep control over them and exploit them in service of the party’s own interests.
“Hezbollah is using a large part of the Shiite sect as a base for its internal and regional project,” said the former prime minster.
“This is the painful truth…I am almost certain that quite a few realize this, but condone it under the pressure of the fear that Hezbollah spreads about the fate of the sect,” he added.
Hariri, who heads Lebanon’s Future Movement, was addressing supporters at Beirut’s Biel, who came to commemorate the anniversary of the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in a car blast that rocked Beirut in Feb. 2005.
During the commemoration ceremony, Hariri also renewed his commitment to the principles of March 14, vowing to fulfill the principles of the protests that were triggered by Hariri’s killing.
“On the eighth commemoration of this martyrdom, I renew the vow before you, to adhere to the path of national moderation, and do everything to protect the unity of Lebanon, and the safety of coexistence between all its sons,” said the former prime minister.
As Hariri delivered his speech, celebratory gunshots were fired in the air in the northern city of Tripoli, a major Future Movement stronghold.
Hariri also denounced the presence of all illegitimate arms in the country, mainly Hezbollah’s, and said such paramilitary weapons constitute the biggest threat to the country.
“The problem of weapons in Lebanon, the illegal weapons in all their regional, internal, sectarian, family, jihadist and expiatory functions is the mother of all problems in Lebanon,” Hariri said.
The Future leader added that the small amount of weapons in the hands of different groups and families in the country have minimal influence in comparison to Hezbollah’s arsenal.
“There are small amounts of weapons in the hands of groups and outlawed Lebanese and Palestinian factions, which have practically resorted to this choice under the pretext of self-defense, in the shadow of the major armed incubator of Hezbollah and Hezbollah brigade,” he said.
According to Hariri, Hezbollah’s military power and groups are not limited to the southern suburbs of Beirut, but are spread across Lebanon.
“Hezbollah brigades are practically present in Tripoli, Akkar, Minieh, Dinniyeh, Zogharta, Batroun, Koura, Keserwan, Jbeil, Metn, Baabda, Aley, Chouf, and Sidon, in addition to Beirut, the southern suburbs, and the entire South and the Bekaa,” Hariri said.
The former prime minister went on in his criticism to the party, four members of which were indicted by an international tribunal over his father’s assassination, and said that Hezbollah is willing to do anything to keep its weapons.
“Hezbollah totally refuses to admit this fact [the risk of arms], and clings to the following formula: all policies in the service of the weapons,” Hariri said.
He added that Hezbollah offered Prime Minister Najib Mikati a ministerial bribe at the expense of the party’s share to make sure its weapons remain intact to the Cabinet and agreed to go along with the Orthodox proposal for the elections to please its Christian ally, Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement.
The former prime minister, who is out of the country for security reasons told supporters he would be back in Lebanon for the coming parliamentary elections, scheduled in June 9.
“I assure you today that I'll be by your side in the next electoral battle, whatever the law, the challenges and the risks,” he said.
Hariri also voiced confidence that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad will definitely come to an end, adding that the positive repercussions of Assad’s fall will spread to the region.
“Bashar Assad’s regime will inevitably fall, and its fall will be resounding in Syria, the Arab world and the world.”