BEIRUT: March 14 parties described Hizbullah’s display of force Tuesday as a “masked rehearsal” of a possible armed coup in preparation against Lebanese state institutions and called on the Lebanese Army and security institutions to assume the responsibility of preserving security.
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement parliamentary bloc said the Hizbullah orchestrated gatherings at key intersections in Beirut were masked and unsuccessful attempts in preparation of an armed coup against the Lebanese state.
“It became clear that the recent attempts are a masked and unsuccessful equation of an armed coup that the Lebanese will not surrender to or accept and attempts that will not alter our convictions but rather deepen our commitment to our principles,” a statement released by the bloc said.
While Hizbullah failed to comment on the organized gatherings mobilized as early as 3 a.m. Tuesday, a figure of the March 8 coalition confirmed that Hizbullah and its allies have decided to take their demands to the street.
The Future Movement bloc called on the Lebanese Army and security forces to assume their responsibilities and protect people against those threatening their security and safety.
Echoing the Future Movement, the March 14 Secretariat General said that the large-scale orchestrated deployment of Hizbullah members in Beirut violated constitutional norms and democratic values.
The display of force followed the adjournment of binding parliamentary consultations by President Michel Sleiman scheduled for last Monday to name a new prime minister to grant Syrian-Turkish-Qatari efforts a chance to break the deadlock over the disputed issue of the U.N.-backed tribunal.
The crisis over the U.N.-backed court has led to the collapse of Hariri’s Cabinet after he refused Hizbullah’s demand to halt cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that is probing the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
A statement released following the meeting of the secretariat’s officials said the March 8 coalition resorted to such a step after realizing that Hariri still retained a parliamentary majority that would result in his re-nomination as prime minister. “Thus the pressure exercised to postpone binding parliamentary consultations,” it said in reference to reports that Progressive Socialist Party leader M.P. Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc would have granted Hariri its votes guaranteeing his re-nomination to head the new cabinet.
While Jumblatt’s position remains ambiguous, the P.S.P. said in a statement that its leader alone was entitled to decide upon his future political positions.
Lebanese Forces M.P. Antoine Zahra said the March 8 coalition should refrain from participating in the upcoming government if Hariri gains a parliamentary majority and is re-nominated as prime minister. “The gatherings in Beirut were organized and aimed at delivering a message that Hizbullah is ready to take the action to the streets to serve Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s belief that Lebanon be turned into a battlefield with Israel,” he told LBC TV station earlier.
Zahra told The Daily Star that the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition could take to the street and resort to force to accomplish its political agenda.
Future Movement MP Oqab Saqr said “militia acts” carried out early in the morning were the first phase of a security operation aimed at intimidating the Lebanese as he warned Hizbullah against acting as an “organized gang.”
“This shameful behavior cannot constitute leverage to the resistance because it is impossible for those who block the way of Beirut citizens to lift the motto of the resistance in south Lebanon against Israel,” he said.
Saqr added that Tawhid Movement Wi’am Wahhab’s statements aimed to undermine the authority of the Lebanese Army and security forces in a bid to guarantee a cover for “gangsters” to implement their plan.
Wahhab warned security forces against intervening to confront any popular protests and threatened to retaliate against the posts of Internal Security Forces in such an event.
“The situation is unstable and we will not allow anyone to tarnish our dignities, land and resistance,” Wahhab said.
“The S.T.L. will not enter Lebanon and whoever thinks he can bring it in will end up in The Hague,” he added.
But Hizbullah’s ally, Amal Movement caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Ali Abdullah, said the gatherings were spontaneous, unarmed and not politically motivated.