Lebanon News

Nasrallah’s speech draws March 14 ire

BEIRUT: March 14 officials criticized Thursday the speech made by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day.

“His [Nasrallah’s] speech offered nothing new,” Batroun MP Antoine Zahra told The Daily Star Thursday. He said that Nasrallah’s rejection of a technocrat Cabinet was proof that a political vacuum suited the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance.

“This shows that a [power] vacuum suits them and shows that it is either their government or no government in Lebanon,” said Zahra, a Lebanese Forces official. He added that the political vacuum is linked to the popular uprisings in the Arab world, particularly in neighboring Syria.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and other March 14 politicians have called for the formation of a Cabinet of technocrats after Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, who is backed by the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, failed to form a government due to differences over the distribution of portfolios.

In his speech, Nasrallah rejected calls for the formation of a technocrat Cabinet, attributing the proposal to the Americans and the Future Movement.

“In a country like Lebanon a technocrat government won’t work. This is a country political to the bone,” he said.

Nasrallah said pressure by Washington on President Michel Sleiman and Mikati was behind the delay in the formation of a new Cabinet in Lebanon. Mikati has been struggling to form a new government since he was appointed prime minister-designate on Jan. 25 to replace Hariri’s toppled government.

Akkar MP Khaled Zahrman said Nasrallah’s remarks that Washington and the Future Movement were behind the idea of a technocrat government confirmed that Hezbollah was determined to use the “language of treason” against the Lebanese.

His Future Bloc colleague Ammar Houri, a Beirut MP, described Nasrallah’s speech as “arrogant,” saying the Hezbollah leader “fell short of acknowledging the failure of the Hezbollah-led coup which led to the toppling of the government.”

Zahle MP Elie Marouni, a Kataeb (Phalange) Party official, was even more critical of the speech. He said he believed Nasrallah intended to shift Israel’s attention from the upheaval in Syria and launch a war against Lebanon.

“Talk about missiles is to give Israel a pretext for its aggression,” he told a local radio station. He was referring to Nasrallah’s remarks that Hezbollah would carry on in its struggle and that his group would maintain its arsenal.

During his speech Wednesday, Nasrallah called on Arab governments to withdraw their 2002 peace initiative with Israel in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tough conditions for peace with the Palestinians. 

He also slammed U.S. President Barack Obama for accusing Hezbollah of carrying out political assassination.

In a televised speech marking the 11th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah said: “Yesterday, Obama and Netanyahu dealt a fatal and final blow to the so-called Arab peace initiative. What is the position of Arab governments and the Arab League? Isn’t the time for this initiative to be taken off the table?”

Addressing thousands of Hezbollah supporters in the Bekaa village of Nabi Sheet through a huge screen via a video link, Nasrallah recalled that Saudi King Abdullah Abdel-Aziz, who floated the peace plan at an Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, said two years ago that Arab states couldn’t tolerate keeping the initiative on the table for a long time.

The Arab Peace Initiative called for a complete Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the return of Palestinian refugees in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel and normal relations. Israel has rejected the initiative.

Nasrallah noted that Netanyahu, addressing the U.S. Congress Tuesday, said that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and rejected the return to the 1967 borders as well as the return of Palestinian refugees.

Nasrallah also denied charges by Obama that Hezbollah was involved in political assassination. He said Obama’s remarks prove that a U.N.-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was politicized.

Speaking at last weekend’s AIPAC conference in Washington, Obama pledged that the U.S. would stand up to “groups like Hezbollah who exercise political assassination, and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.”

Washington labels Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

“The U.S. hostility to Hezbollah isn’t new. The political and judicial contents of Mr. Obama’s [speech] amounted to a sellout to the Zionists,” Nasrallah said.

He added that Obama had played judge and jury and issued a verdict before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon had even issued an indictment in Hariri’s case.

The STL is widely expected to indict some Hezbollah members in Hariri’s assassination, in which Hezbollah has repeatedly denied involvement.

Nasrallah also warned that the U.S. and Israel were seeking to “take over” Arab popular movements, outlining the party’s position on the two-month-old popular upheaval in Syria that has posed the gravest challenge to President Bashar Assad’s 11-year rule.

Nasrallah urged the Syrians to back their president and the Lebanese not to interfere in their neighbor’s affairs.

“All information has so far confirmed that the majority of the Syrian people are still supporting this regime, believe in President Bashar Assad and are betting on his reform steps,” Nasrallah said.

“The toppling of the regime in Syria is an American and Israeli interest to replace it with a regime like the moderate Arab regimes that are ready to sign any surrender with Israel,” he added.

Nasrallah urged Lebanon to reject any sanctions on Syria in response to Damascus’ crackdown on protesters, while also denying accusations that Hezbollah had sent several thousand to Syria to defend the regime.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 27, 2011, on page 2.

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