Lebanon News

Nasrallah: no opposition veto, no presidential election

BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday that the opposition acquiring veto power in the next government was the only solution to the 13-month old political standoff in Lebanon, adding that he and his allies were fighting against US plans for this country rather than against the ruling March 14 Forces.

The sayyed also accused March 14 of obstructing all international initiatives to solve the crisis in Lebanon.

"The governing coalition's refusing all attempts to set the foundations for a true partnership has proved to be the main obstacle hindering any solution," he said during an interview with NBN television.

The interview was aired simultaneously by Hizbullah's Al-Manar television.  

Nasrallah's last public appearance came in November, when he delivered a speech to address "maneuvers" Hizbullah undertook in South Lebanon.

"The ruling coalition considers granting us a blocking minority as 'political suicide.' We say that the opposition acquiring veto power means blocking US plans  in Lebanon," he said. 

Nasrallah said the opposition was working on countering US influence in Lebanon.

"The US works on having a pro-US government in Lebanon which would facilitate the building of US military bases and follow the orders of the US administration," he argued, adding that Washington wanted to "forever abolish the spirit and culture of resistance in Lebanon."

According to Nasrallah, the US is also aiming to bring about  the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, "not for humanitarian reasons of course but to jeopardize the Palestinian cause and the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland."

"Mind you, we don't see the settlement of Palestinians in Lebanon as jeopardizing the sectarian status quo," he added.

"Acquiring veto power inside the new government will allow us to foil such plans," he said, "and, most importantly, to monitor the economy of the country and protect it against dubious deals."

Nasrallah also confirmed that Hizbullah backed the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman, for the presidency.

But "electing General Suleiman will not solve the problem," he warned. "We need a national unity government in which the opposition has veto power."

Speaker Nabih Berri has postponed for the 11th time a parliamentary session to elect a new president. The vote is now scheduled for January 12.

The country has been without a head of state since Emile Lahoud's term expired at midnight on November 23 without feuding political rivals having agreed on a successor.

The government and the opposition have agreed on Suleiman as the man for the job, but remain at odds over the election process and the shape of a new administration.

The opposition is demanding a "basket" of guarantees on the new government line-up ahead of any vote

Some of Nasrallah's comments were common opposition arguments echoed by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem earlier Wednesday.

Speaking during a news conference in Damascus, Moallem said Syria had agreed with France on a compromise that would give the opposition veto power in a new cabinet but that parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri refused to sign on.

Nasrallah said the opposition would not "remain silent" in face of the ruling coalition's attempts to "monopolize rule."

"We are waiting for mediations to succeed," he told NBN, "but if they fail and the situation persists there will be a move by the opposition," which would "resort to civic and legitimate means."

Asked whether Hizbullah endorsed calls to revisit the Taif Accord that ended the 1975-1990 Civil War, Nasrallah said his party never considered the pact "as the core of the deadlock."

"We don't consider the Taif Accord as the core to the problem; we never called for it to be amended and we will never do unless all the Lebanese agree to that," he said.

He acknowledged, however, added that Hizbullah had "comments" on Taif, and called for "accurate implementation" of the agreement, which altered  Lebanon's system of confessional power-sharing.

"We demand that some unclear constitutional articles be interpreted or at least explained, such as the quorum to elect the next president or shares of Cabinet seats," he said.

Tackling the issue of political assassinations, Nasrallah reiterated earlier accusations that Israel was responsible.

Addressing the issue of media reports alleging divisions inside his party, Nasrallah said they "make the Hizbullah team laugh and these are attempts to mutilate our image."

Hizbullah issued a statement last month dismissing reports  about new appointments in the group's high command. The Saudi-owned London-based Ash-Sharq al-Awsat daily and Israel's Maariv newspaper reported early in December that Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had stripped Nasrallah of his military authority and appointed his deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, as commander of the party's armed wing.

"Hizbullah is one of the most homogenous groups," Nasrallah said during the interview. "There is harmony among us all."





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