BEIRUT: The head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc dismissed Sunday a U.N.-backed court’s indictment into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination as worthless, in the latest exchange of tough rhetoric with the March 14 coalition.
“This indictment is not worth the ink with which it was written. It is aimed at mobilizing the international public opinion and provoking Arab and Muslim states and Latin and North America against the resistance and something called Hezbollah in Lebanon in the hope they can succeed in surrounding the resistance and tightening the noose around it psychologically, politically, financially and socially,” MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc in Parliament, told a rally in the southern town of Kfar Fila.
Raad called the indictment which implicated Hezbollah in Hariri’s assassination a lie.
Referring to the Hezbollah-Israel war in the summer of 2006, Raad said: “He who has withstood your world war in 2006 finds it easy to tolerate your latest lie through the indictment. As your goals were thwarted in the 2006 war, the ramifications of this lie will be thwarted and will also boomerang on you and on anyone who got involved in concocting plots, rumors and false accusations and allegations which have no proof at all.”
Raad’s remarks came after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) issued its long-awaited indictment June 30, accusing four Hezbollah members of involvement in Hariri’s assassination and demanded their arrest. The Netherlands-based STL is seeking to uncover Hariri’s killers.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to break his silence to outline his position on the STL’s indictment and the government’s formation during an interview with MTV Tuesday night. Hariri has been out of Lebanon since April reportedly for security reasons.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has rejected the STL’s indictment, vowing never to turn over the four accused members. In a defiant speech July 2, Nasrallah dismissed the tribunal as an “American-Israeli court,” saying that Lebanese authorities will not be able to arrest the four suspects “even in 300 years.”
The release of the STL’s indictment came on the same day Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet approved its policy statement which stressed Lebanon’s respect of U.N. resolutions and pledged to follow the tribunal’s path in order to reach the truth in Hariri’s assassination.
Hariri’s parliamentary Future bloc and its March 14 allies blasted the government’s policy statement, saying it put Lebanon in a confrontation with the international community and led to a coup against the STL.
During the three-day parliamentary debate of the policy statement ahead of a vote of confidence, Mikati and his government came under blistering verbal attacks by March 14 lawmakers who accused the prime minister of abandoning the STL with an ambiguously worded clause stipulating that Lebanon will “respect” international resolutions as long as they do not threaten peace and stability. In his speech before the confidence vote Thursday, Mikati said his government would continue to cooperate with the STL.
Hezbollah’s Agriculture Minister Hussein al-Haj Hasan accused the March 14 parties of using the STL to further their own personal ends.
“The Security Council, which is dominated by the United States, appointed the investigation commission and the tribunal. How can this tribunal be free from U.S. intervention and U.S. interests? We want and demand justice, while you [March 14] want to use the tribunal to serve your personal purposes,” Haj Hasan told a food festival in the eastern city of Baalbek.
Energy Minister Jibran Bassil criticized the opposition’s call on the international community not to cooperate with the government if it fails to commit to the STL.
“We see an opposition which we firstly called subversive. But after what we have witnessed in Parliament we call it a ‘childish’ opposition,” Bassil said during a tour of a castle in Batroun with Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud and Education Minister Gaby Layyoun.
“Can you imagine there are people working to attract investments and money and in return there are people who are demanding a halt to investments, money and measures of siege. They are people who are impertinently calling on the international community to freeze its assets and sever its relations with Lebanon,” Bassil said.
Meanwhile, Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra accused Hezbollah and its March 8 allies of seeking to make Hariri’s killers unknown.
“We are today in a stage in which they [Hezbollah and its allies] are seeking to make the killer unknown and allowing him to escape from punishment. All this is aimed at linking Lebanon again to the policy of a regional axis that is defying history, logic and the peoples’ movement and aspirations for freedom,” Zahra said at a LF dinner in the village of Rachine in Zghorta Saturday. He was referring to the Syrian-Iranian axis which backs Hezbollah.
Zahra accused the Hezbollah-led alliance of trying to put an end to the struggle of the Lebanese people who were able to attain the international tribunal and terminate the Syrian tutelage over the country. He criticized Mikati for not declaring that his government will be committed to the STL, saying March 14 parties do not trust this government.
Zahra predicted that the new Parliament majority would fail to bring out the promised reforms and change. “Reform will go backward and change will head for the worst. Because of this, we will work daily, peacefully and in a democratic way to topple your government,” he said.
Future bloc’s MP Okab Saqr dismissed the parliamentary vote of confidence in the government as “meaningless theatrics,” saying it amounted to “a piracy on our political life.”
In an interview with ANB TV, Saqr said the tribunal’s work will not stop. “This is an international path which is impossible to change because it is part of the new world order. Therefore, this tribunal will continue and we as Lebanese must see how to deal with it as a de facto matter,” he said.
The STL has split the Lebanese into two rival camps: The Hezbollah-led March 8 camp which rejects the tribunal and the March 14 camp which considers the tribunal the only means to reveal the truth in Hariri’s assassination.