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French Version

Nasrallah condemns invitation to Blair as 'a national disaster'

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah held Tony Blair partly responsible on Tuesday for the deaths of Lebanese civilians, saying the British premier had not done enough to help end the war with Israel.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also lashed out at the government for welcoming Blair to Lebanon.

Blair visited Beirut on Monday, promising $75 million in aid and assistance for Lebanon's armed forces.

"This Tony Blair is an associate in the murdering," Nasrallah said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television.

He also criticized Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "You bring him [Blair] home to me and to my family and you give him a great reception?" Nasrallah said. "If there was an invitation extended to Tony Blair to visit then this is a national disaster."

Siniora said he had sent an invitation during the war for Blair to visit Beirut once the fighting ended.

Nasrallah said his group has been practicing self-restraint against what he described as "back-stabbing and provocation" by politicians.

However, any such restraint was noticeably absent Monday night during Hizbullah's first public rally since the start of the war. During a speech made to the crowd from the devastated southern suburbs of Beirut, Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar said the anti-Syrian coalition had sided with the enemy.

"The March 14 Forces aligned themselves with the Israeli enemy from the start" of the conflict that ended on August 14, he said. "They planned the assassination of the resistance in collaboration with the Americans and the Israelis."

"This government must go," he added, calling for the formation of a national unity government embracing factions outside the current Cabinet, including MP Michel Aoun and former MP Suleiman Franjieh.

Hizbullah presently holds two seats in Cabinet.

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hizbullah's Christian political ally, said that although it would "not allow anyone to impose the timing for a change of government," the movement would work to achieve a more balanced representation.

"We want to change the government in order to straighten the imbalance in the political representation," FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan said. "Everything within the framework of the Constitution and democracy and that can be beneficial to Lebanon is subject to discussion, but we will not let anyone impose on us the timing."

Kanaan also lashed out at the parliamentary majority for "intimidating" anyone who contradicts its political agenda.

"The majority intimidates the opposition whenever something that contradicts its agenda is proposed and they immediately accuse us of treason or link us to Syria and Iran," he said. "Why don't we accuse the majority of serving American and Israeli interests in Lebanon? We don't want to accuse anyone of treason and we don't want to let anyone dictate to us our agenda; we want to work for national unity."

The Amal Movement, the resistance's intra-sect ally, said there was no serious plan to topple the government and that any comments from Hizbullah were in reaction to a March 14 Forces statement issued last week that blamed the resistance for the war and described the party's weapons as "incapable of defending and protecting the Lebanese and their land."

"Hizbullah's comments were a reaction to the March 14 Forces statement," Health Minister and Amal member Mohammad Khalifeh told The Daily Star. "There isn't any real discussion to topple the government; there were accusations followed by counter-accusations."

Lebanese Forces leader and prominent March 14 member Samir Geagea said the coalition had never targeted Hizbullah.

"All we did is express our point of view on the situation and the rise of the country and the obstacles that are hindering it, and we have expressed it during the national dialogue and in the presence of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah himself," Geagea said Tuesday. "Our statements are being paraphrased incorrectly. It seems that no one is allowed to express his opinion without being accused of treason."

Khalifeh said that "even if there is to be a change in government, it will be a smooth change. We cannot bear another conflict following this devastating war."

Ammar's speech came on the heels of a Hizbullah statement released earlier Monday that also slammed March 14.

"The repeated calls by these forces for the disarmament of Hizbullah aim to serve the interests of their Western masters, at the head of which are the United States and its ally, Israel," the statement said.

"We appeal to those forces to prove their nationalism and not put Lebanon under foreign tutelage, the object of which is to make Lebanon unable to defend itself against Israel."

Geagea on Tuesday reiterated his call for the party to hand in their weapons.

"The principle of a country and the principle of a resistance cannot live together. It is either a country or it isn't. There are no half-countries," Geagea said.

"We urge Hizbullah to remove the last obstacle before the creation of the country which is their weapons."

As The Daily Star went to press, Al-Jazeera aired new comments by Nasrallah in which he said a UN "facilitator" appointed to mediate a prisoner swap with Israel would arrive in Lebanon next week.

Beirut 13-09-2006
Nada Bakri
The Daily Star

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