BEIRUT: March 14 officials described Friday Hizbullah’s accusations against the 2006 Cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as misleading attempts aimed at discrediting March 14 groups and pressuring them to relinquish support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
Siniora denied Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s claims that his government demanded the prolongation of the July 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon to bring the resistance to its knees.
The former premier said he initiated diplomatic efforts to halt the Israeli assault immediately after the war broke out, but was met by opposition from Israel and the United States.
The Cabinet’s opposition to early negotiations to cease hostilities came after the international community proposed draft resolutions in line with Israeli rather than Lebanese interests, Siniora said.
“Since Sayyed Nasrallah has documents, tapes and minutes of government meetings that prove his claims, then it is his duty to release them to the public,” Siniora said in reference to Nasrallah’s accusations that the government asked for prolonging the war during a meeting with French officials.
Information Minister Tarek Mitri said the government opposed the French draft resolutions because they called on Israel “to halt aggressive acts” and thus indirectly allowed Israel to carry out operations “labeled as defensive.”
Mitri added that the proposal also failed to mention the need for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from all Lebanese territories and called for the deployment of peacekeeping forces under Chapter Seven of the United Nations charter, which Hizbullah rejected.
“The draft resolution was not in line with the interest of Lebanon, whose Cabinet insisted on an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire and clearly demanded the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanese territories, and the reinforcement of peacekeeping forces under Chapter Six,” Mitri said.
Under Chapter Six, the peacekeeping troops would lack authorization to use force.
Separately, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea advised Nasrallah to refrain from provocative discourse if he truly feared Israeli plans to fuel strife, rather than granting the Jewish state a pretext to promote schism among the Lebanese.
“If Hizbullah is sure of its innocence, then why is it concerned?” Geagea asked.
In similar tone, Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat said Nasrallah’s unfounded accusations served Israeli interests. Fatfat added that no one had designs against the resistance if its weapons were aimed against Israel.
However, the resistance should be the first to try any rogue operatives, Fatfat added in reference to Nasrallah’s warning that the party would “cut off the hands” of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members if indicted by the STL.
“If we support the resistance’s weapons when they are aimed against Israel and oppose them when aimed at internal targets, Nasrallah cannot protect individuals if indicted under the pretext of belonging to the resistance because this is against the logic of law and justice,” Fatfat said.
“If Nasrallah proves that the STL is an Israeli and American instrument, we will oppose it, but so far the accusations remain claims, without any solid evidence that the court is biased,” Fatfat added.
Phalange Party official and Zahle MP Elie Marouni said Nasrallah’s accusations would fail to pressure the March 14 coalition and influence its positions.
Marouni added that March 14 parties had embraced southerners with open arms after they fled areas of conflict in south Lebanon during the July 2006 war. He noted that at the time, Nasrallah praised all Lebanese for their support of the resistance.
During Nasrallah’s address on Thursday, the Hizbullah leader described what he called five different stages of targeting the resistance by outside powers, which had taken different forms since 2004. One of them involved “tempting” Hizbullah to obtain more political power in exchange for ending its military activity.
Nasrallah said his party had rejected any deals with regard to handing over its weapons in exchange for a greater share of formal political power, as it entered the executive branch for the first time in 2005.
Geagea took issue with the notion that France was behind the move, and said it was actually Hizbullah’s backers in Tehran who had floated the proposal. He said French officials conveyed to March 14 parties an Iranian suggestion to the French to consider granting Hizbullah a greater share of power in return for the party’s weapons.
In his address, Nasrallah said the French suggested amending the 1989 Taif Accord to turn parity between Christians and Muslims to a tripartite distribution of prerogatives among Shiites, Sunnis and Christians.