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Lebanon News

Hezbollah ready to attend National Dialogue

  • (The Daily Star / Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah is ready to attend any National Dialogue session aimed at exploring a national defense strategy designed to face Israel’s threats to Lebanon, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Friday.

The group’s leader also warned against attempts to splinter the Lebanese Army along sectarian lines, saying the military was the only guarantee left to preserve the country and its state.

Following a string of Syria-related security incidents that rattled the country recently, raising fears that Lebanon was already caught up in the Syrian conflict, Nasrallah appealed to the Lebanese to be vigilant to foil attempts aimed at inciting sectarian strife.

“We are always ready to attend National Dialogue or any dialogue to discuss a national defense strategy before the formation of a Cabinet or after its formation,” Nasrallah told the annual iftar banquet hosted by the Resistance Support Committee in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“We are ready to discuss a defense strategy ... This country is for all of us. There is a serious national need in Lebanon to draw up a national defense strategy,” he said.

He added that during the last National Dialogue session in September 2012 attended by March 8 and March 14 leaders in Baabda, Hezbollah presented a blueprint for a national defense strategy, but the “other side” (March 14 leaders) did not discuss it.

“There is no seriousness about discussing a defense strategy,” Nasrallah said, adding that March 14 leaders only wanted to ensure that Hezbollah hand over its weapons to the Lebanese Army.

Nasrallah’s speech was relayed via video link to crowds attending iftar banquets in Beirut, south Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

Nasrallah’s remarks came three days after President Michel Sleiman said he planned to reconvene the stalled National Dialogue between the March 8 and March 14 leaders in order to reassert commitment to the “Baabda Declaration” amid deep national divisions over the bloody conflict in Syria.

During a National Dialogue session he chaired in Baabda in September last year, Sleiman proposed a national defense strategy that would allow Hezbollah to keep its arms but place them under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would have exclusive authority to use force.

Under the proposal, Hezbollah would not hand over its weapons to the Army, as demanded by the March 14 coalition, while coordination between the resistance and the Army, the defense strategy that Hezbollah has backed, would be dropped.

Amid fears of strife as a result of the repercussions of the war in neighboring Syria, Nasrallah called on the Lebanese to be “extremely vigilant”against attempts to destabilize the country, stressing the need to preserve the Lebanese Army as the only guarantee for national survival.

“I call on the Lebanese to be extremely vigilant in light of the current sharp divisions in the country,” he said.

“Vigilance is required from everyone and in all regions. Internal security is the responsibility of the state. We should be vigilant during this difficult period,” Nasrallah said.

Referring to criticism by some March 14 politicians against the military, Nasrallah warned that if the Army broke up or was paralyzed, there would be no state, peace or stability in the country.

“Therefore, we need this Army. In its absence, there will be no state and no country,” he said.

Nasrallah urged the rival factions to neutralize the military institution from their political differences. “The Army should be preserved and bolstered and not weakened or splintered,” he said.

Nasrallah scoffed at March 14 calls to exclude Hezbollah from the next government, saying the policy of isolation would lead nowhere.

Despite sharp differences with March 14 parties, Nasrallah said he was ready for dialogue with his rivals.

“We are against the theory [of isolation and exclusion]. We are receptive to discussions and we can agree on some issues, while we can neutralize divisive ones,” he said. “Despite rivalry between us and the other side, we extend our hands for discussion and meeting together.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 20, 2013, on page 1.
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