Lebanon News

March 14 vows to stand strong in face of Hezbollah 'coup'

BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s coalition accused Hezbollah Monday of staging a coup against the Lebanese state in a bid to impose an Iranian agenda on Lebanon.

As President Michel Sleiman concluded the first day of binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister, lawmakers from the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces condemned the nomination of Tripoli MP Najib Mikati as a violation of Lebanon’s national coexistence pact.

Mikati, a wealthy businessman and former consensus premier who ran the June 2009 parliamentary elections on Hariri’s electoral list in Tripoli, is expected to gain a majority at the end of the two-day parliamentary consultations Tuesday. Protests broke out across Lebanon to contest his nomination.

Future Movement loyalists and officials described Mikati’s nomination for prime minister as unrepresentative of the Sunni community. The post is reserved for a Sunni according to Lebanon’s unwritten convention, which Hariri’s supporters said Hezbollah was seeking to dominate.

Future Movement politburo member Mustapha Alloush said the Lebanese would confront “Hezbollah’s coup” against the state and accused Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of assuming the role of head of state.

In a joint news conference with Akkar MP Khaled al-Daher and Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara after a meeting of the Future Movement’s bureau in north Lebanon, Alloush said Tripoli rejected the nomination of its leaders by Wilayat al-Faqih, in reference to Iran’s clerical authority. “Hezbollah’s coup is an attempt to put the premiership under the mentorship of Wilayat al-Faqih,” he said.

Hezbollah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc leader MP Mohammad Raad said Monday his party was undergoing a transitory phase which is likely to be crowned with further victories.

“The current battle is a circumstantial and transitory phase which we will overcome to guarantee more victories and abolish the objectives of those conspiring against us,” he said.

MP Kabbara, meanwhile, said offending the Sunni community was unacceptable while Daher said “Hezbollah’s coup,” aimed at intimidating the population, was doomed to fail.

He added that the March 14 coalition would stand firm against Iranian intervention and in defense of justice and the tribunal. “We say to supporters of the Persian project that Lebanon will remain an Arab nation and that Tripoli will remain the stronghold of Arabism and national coexistence under the authority of the state,” he added.

Before the parliamentary consultations kicked off, Hariri’s press office said Mikati was the March 8 coalition’s candidate, rejecting claims that he was a consensus nominee.

“Claims of the existence of a consensus candidate are deceptive; there is no consensus candidate. There is a candidate named Saad Hariri and another backed by March 8 groups and the difference is obvious,” the statement said.

Hariri’s press office added that the period following binding parliamentary consultations will differ from the situation beforehand – a twist on Hezbollah’s stance that the submission of the U.N.-backed tribunal’s indictment to the pre-trial judge has established a new irreversible phase. “What precedes the parliamentary consultations is one thing and what comes after is another,” it said.

The U.N.-backed court is widely expected to implicate Hizbullah members in the assassination of former statesman Rafik Hariri with the new government expected to cut ties with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon upon Hezbollah’s demand, one which Hariri’s Cabinet refused to agree to.

Future Movement MP Oqab Saqr said parliamentary consultations were in violation of the Constitution as lawmakers were subjected to pressure and intimidation to support Mikati’s candidacy.

Saqr was referring to a Hezbollah-orchestrated gathering last week at key intersections in the capital. March 14 parties said the mobilized gatherings were aimed at intimidating MPs to nominate the Hezbollah-backed candidate.

“Forcing a candidacy through intimidation fails to lay the foundations for a Lebanese state and dialogue but rather violates the Constitution and the people’s right and will,” Saqr said.

“I remind you that Mikati ran for the elections on Hariri’s electoral list and thus submitting his candidacy is backstabbing the prime minister,” he added.

“We will not participate in a Cabinet formed this way [by March 8] and betray the Lebanese,” he said.

Lebanese Forces lawmakers rejected the nomination of Mikati, describing the latter as the March 8 coalition’s candidate rather than a consensus figure.

Batroun MP Antoine Zahra said Hariri and LF leader Samir Geagea would stand united to confront Hezbollah’s attempt to take over the state.

 

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