Lebanon News

Nasrallah flogs Israel, vows no internal fighting

BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah lashed out at Israel on Friday, accusing it of plotting the assassinations and violence that have shaken Lebanon over the past few years but reiterating a pledge to seek consensus and dialogue to spare the country further chaos. "Israel has a clear-cut plan for the region and Lebanon, and it will do everything in its power to have it implemented," Nasrallah said during a ceremony to mark International Quds (Jerusalem) Day at which his speech was televised.

Nasrallah said Israel's goals in Lebanon included having Hizbullah dragged into internal conflicts, "so as to distract us from our true goal and to weaken our performance."

"But Israel should know we will never take any Lebanese group as our enemy," he said.

In his first speech since August 15 - when he commemorated the "Divine Victory" over Israel during the summer 2006 war - Nasrallah said Hizbullah "fully" endorsed talks on having the presidential election be "an exclusively Lebanese issue free from any form of foreign interference," and outlined three steps toward achieving this aim.

"First of all we should try to agree on a consensus president," he said. "If not, we should proceed to having a president elected by a two-thirds quorum [in Parliament], as stipulated by the Lebanese Constitution."

The quorum issue has sparked a heated debate between the ruling majority and the opposition. While the opposition is calling for a two-thirds quorum to elect the president, the ruling March 14 forces consider that a president can be elected by simple majority.

"However," Nasrallah added, "if the two previous options fail to materialize, we should amend the Constitution and proceed to have a popular presidential vote because this will make the election even more Lebanese."

Parliament gathered for a vote on September 25 but did not open the session due to the insufficient number of MPs in attendance, and the chamber adjourned until October 23.

Nasrallah said that the country's next head of state should be characterized by "integrity and transparency."

"Lebanon's next president should be loyal to Lebanon, first and foremost, and should have immunity against foreign interference and pressures," he said.

Nasrallah said such a person "is not a result of the imagination and actually exists."

He did not mention a name, and Hizbullah has not officially announced a candidate, but party representatives have repeatedly said that MP Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, was the opposition's preferred choice.  

Contrary to the expectations of some observers, Nasrallah did not address calls by the Council of Maronite Bishops to dismantle the tent city erected by the opposition in Downtown Beirut since December 1.

The opposition launched the sit-in after six opposition ministers quit the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and protesters have demanded the resignation of a Cabinet it labels illegitimate.

"It is time to liberate the capital's city center and its surroundings, where restaurants, hotels and shops have shown the whole world that our Beirut is characterized by a vital and active role," the council said earlier this week. 

Tackling regional issues, the sayyed called for a unified Arab stance concerning the situation in Palestine.

"We are not urging Arab leaders to prepare for a large-scale war against Israel because this will not happen," he said. We only call on Arab countries to support Palestinians both politically and financially and they [Palestinians], in turn, will know how to handle their own problems very well."

He also urged various Palestinian factions, namely the Fatah and Hamas movements, to put an end to their differences.

Nasrallah also called on Arab leaders to refrain from taking part in the Middle East peace conference organized by the US this fall.

"Participating in the conference is not likely to bring the Palestinians any good ... for the meeting has the normalization of Arab-Israeli ties [rather than Palestinian statehood] as its sole aim," he argued.

The Hizbullah leader also said that Lebanese-Palestinian ties needed repairs after this summer's 15-week battle between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam militants at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp forced about 30,000 Palestinians to flee their homes.

"Violence has never been a solution to solving tensions between the two peoples and it is imperative that Palestinians living in Lebanon be granted their social as well as human rights at least," Nasrallah said.

Also on Friday, thousands of Hizbullah supporters flocked to the Fatmeh Gate crossing in the village of Kfar Kila on the Israeli border to mark Quds Day.

Quds Day is held to oppose Israel's illegal occupation of Jerusalem. Demonstrations against the occupation are usually held in several Arab and Muslim countries around the world, including Iran, which first suggested the annual event and continues to publicize it.

An array of yellow Hizbullah flags fluttered a few meters away from the border fence and the Israeli town of Metulla as Lebanese Army soldiers and peacekeepers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon stood guard.

"There will come a day when the Israelis will be thrown out of Jerusalem so that the people of this region can finally live in peace and harmony," Fatmeh Shehadeh, head of the party's women's wing in the South, told an animated crowd.





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