Lebanon News

Jumblatt urges rivals to prioritize stability

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt called on rival factions Monday to help consolidate political stability in the country by avoiding rhetoric over the divisive issue of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon which is seeking to uncover the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In an article to be published in the PSP’s weekly newspaper Al-Anbaa Tuesday, Jumblatt said he joined Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani in calling for keeping the issue of the STL out of political debate, but without renouncing the demand for justice in Hariri’s assassination. In a statement Sunday Qabbani urged political parties to refrain from exploiting the tribunal for political purposes.

In response, Jumblatt said: “This rational and calm discourse is required to deal with the current sensitive stage. It is different from the opposition team’s tough statements which will restore tension along with sectarian and confessional considerations.”

Jumblatt’s remarks came amid a political escalation over the STL between the March 14 coalition and the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the eve of a parliamentary session to debate the Cabinet’s policy statement ahead of a vote of confidence.

The March 14 parties, now in the opposition, met Sunday at the Bristol Hotel and served Mikati a clear warning to either announce his commitment to the STL or step down during the three-day parliamentary sessions set to begin Tuesday. They accused Mikati of disavowing the tribunal in the government’s policy statement.

The political debate over the tribunal intensified after the STL issued its long-awaited indictment Thursday accusing four Hezbollah members of involvement in Hariri’s assassination.

Adding to the row was a speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah in which he rejected the STL’s indictment, vowing never to turn over four indicted party members. In a defiant speech Saturday night, 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.” Nasrallah’s speech triggered a deluge of responses from March 14 politicians who defended the STL.

“The crimes and assassinations that happened were politically motivated par excellence. The accusation in the indictment was also politically motivated par excellence. Probably for this reason, Lebanon will be pushed into an international [power] struggle that is bigger than it and in what we called the game of nations,” Jumblatt said.

“Therefore, we are all called upon to keep the political and media discourse to the level required by this stage and to allow constitutional institutions and the current government to hold their breath. They will later be brought into account for their performance,” he added.

Minister of Economy Nicholas Nahhas said that given the political tension and political divisions in the country, “it is normal for rhetoric to escalate during Parliament’s confidence sessions.”

“Criticism is one thing and prejudice is another,” Nahhas told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. He called on the March 14 parties to give the government “a chance to prove that it is a government for Lebanon’s salvation.”

Future bloc MP Ammar Houri said justice and stability complemented each other, dismissing March 8 parties’ fears that justice in Hariri’s assassination could destabilize the country.

“Some [March 8 figures] tried to put justice versus stability. We, in March 14, said that justice is the prelude to stability and that achieving stability by the international tribunal will protect political life and the free democratic system,” Houri told Al-Sharq radio station. He said the Bristol conference has confirmed that “justice and stability complemented each other.”

Future bloc MP Jean Hogassapian accused Mikati of seeking to obstruct the STL and preventing justice and the truth in Hariri’s assassination.

“Mikati has also chosen to confront the international community and reject U.N. resolutions, taking the country toward additional divisions and exposing Lebanon to all kinds of risks,” Hogassapian told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. He said the government’s policy statement was “ambiguous and unclear” in the article pertaining to the STL.

Mikati announced a 30-member Cabinet on June 13, in which Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have a majority, ending political deadlock that resulted in a five-month power vacuum

The STL has split the Lebanese into two rival camps: The March 8 camp which rejects the tribunal and calls for Lebanon to end its cooperation with it, and the March 14 camp which considers the tribunal the only means to reveal the truth in Hariri’s assassination.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 05, 2011, on page 2.

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