Lebanon News

Party's arms not for internal destablization: Hezbollah

Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem speaks in front of students at the LU in Hadath, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s arms are directed against Israel and have no domestic targets, a senior Hezbollah figure said Saturday, rejecting a separation between Hezbollah as a party and as a resistance, in an apparent reference to recent comments from President Michel Sleiman.

“We don't have arms for the resistance and arms used for other purposes, we don't have arms to face Israel and others for domestic purposes,” Hezbollah's Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem said during a graduation ceremony at UNESCO palace in Beirut.

“Yes, arms in Nabi Sheet are part of the arsenal to face Israel and arms in any depot or training camps are related to the resistance. We do not have arms aimed at destabilization ... we are not concerned with this issue. Not now, not tomorrow or in the future,” he added.

Sleiman last week said Hezbollah and other groups should be stripped of weapons used at the domestic level but that the resistance’s arms used in the conflict with Israel should come under his defense strategy.

The president last week proposed a national defense strategy aimed at benefiting from Hezbollah’s arms. Under the proposal, the party would not hand its arms over to the Army, as demanded by the March 14 coalition, nor would there be a separate command for the resistance and the military, the defense strategy that Hezbollah backs.

March 14 has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of using its arsenal for domestic gains, referring to the 2008 street conflict in Beirut between pro-opposition and pro-government gunmen following the decision by the government, then headed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, to dismantle Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network.

In his speech Saturday, Qassem rejected attempts to distinguish between Hezbollah as a political party and a resistance group, saying: “We don't have a military wing and a political one; we don't have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other. “

“Every element of Hezbollah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, are in the service of the resistance and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority,” he said.

He also touched on the divisive issue of formulating a new electoral law for the 2013 parliamentary polls and reiterated his party’s stance that proportional representation is the fairest system for the country.

“We are not embarrassed to say publicly that the proportional representation gives our allies advantage over others. But is it prohibited to have fair representation?” he asked.

The joint parliamentary committees are currently studying several electoral proposals including the Cabinet’s draft law which divides Lebanon into 13 medium-sized districts based on proportional representation and another presented by the March 14 coalition based on a winner-takes-all system with 50 small constituencies.

Referring to March 14’s draft law, Qassem said: “How is it that those asking for unfairness have the right to ask for a law that eliminates the other, [while] we do not have the right to ask for a fair law because it would bring about a majority that supports the resistance?”

He also restated his party’s position that Lebanon should be distanced from the conflict in Syria following recent reports that Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the country.

“We affirm our stance of not involving Lebanon in the Syrian crisis and we have always said that Lebanon needs to be distant from the platform against Syria,” he said, repeating the party’s accusation that the Future Movement is sheltering and financing gunmen fighting against the regime in Damascus.





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