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French Version

Nasrallah warns PM to make a deal while he can

'We will win with our voices and not with our arms'

The leader of Hizbullah vowed Thursday to press on with the rally for a unity government, but he also made a solemn oath that Lebanon's Shiites would not be "dragged" into a sectarian war with Sunnis.

"If anyone thought that we would be frightened away and just surrender and go back home, they are gravely mistaken and are living in illusions, illusions, illusions!" Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declared in live television address.

Tens of thousands of cheering demonstrators crammed around two large screens erected in the heart of Downtown Beirut to watch the speech.

"We will not be dragged into any strife even if you kill a thousand of us," Nasrallah promised in the speech.

"We will not raise our arms in the face of anyone in Lebanon ... Our weapons have only been raised against our Israeli enemy," he added, speaking from an undisclosed location, as has been the case in most instances since the July-August war with Israel.

"We will win with our voices, and not with our arms!" vowed Nasrallah, calling for a greater turnout for yet another mass demonstration on Sunday aimed at forcing the government to step down.

Over the past few days, the opposition protest has ignited several sectarian clashes between Shiites and Sunnis in Beirut that left one Shiite dead in a Sunni neighborhood during a riot last Sunday.

"When they killed Ali Ahmad Mahmoud, they wanted to push us to clashes," he said. "I tell them ... we refuse civil war and discord," he added.

"We insist on our demands, for the formation of a real government of national unity ... because it is the only means to prevent any foreign tutelage on Lebanon, so that we have Lebanese decision-making."

Nasrallah also said that he and his allies reject "any tutelage, from any party, whether it is the enemy, brother or friend," referring to Western, Syrian and/or Iranian attempts to control events in Lebanon.

Addressing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the March 14 Forces, he stated that that the protests were not intended to "topple the government, but rather to call for a national unity government headed by Siniora."

"But soon, we will not listen anymore and will not want a government headed by any one of you," he warned.

Nasrallah then raised the Issue of the war, saying he had kept in on the side for "the sake of Lebanon" but that the time had come for it to be addressed.

"Can anyone accept that in a time of war, the prime minister ordered the Lebanese Army to seize weapons being delivered to us as we were trying to defend our country from Israel's

attacks?" Nasrallah asked, calling for an independent committee to investigate events during the conflict.

He claimed that members of the government, whom he did not identify by name, had asked US envoys to get Israel to destroy Hizbullah because "the Lebanese couldn't" and tried to help Israeli forces determine his whereabouts during the war.

"Those are the ones responsible for the war, not the resistance," Nasrallah said.

The man who was Lebanon's acting interior minister during the war, Ahmed Fatfat, rejected Nasrallah's accusation and challenged him to name names.

Speaking on Al-Arabiyya television shortly after Nasrallah's speech, Fatfat said: "This is very serious talk because he almost accused me personally. This is very dangerous because it means bloodshed for Siniora and me. If he has evidence, then let him take me to court - publicly."

As a final gesture of reunification among Sunnis and Shiites, who traditionally pray at different times on Friday, he invited adherents of both sects to show up today "and pray at the same time" in the heart of the increasingly tense capital.

Nasrallah also asked followers not to fire into the air after the speech, as they did last week, "because it is a bad Lebanese habit ... and the only place bullets should be directed is at the chests of the Israeli enemy."

Nasrallah also blasted Arab and Western governments that have expressed support for Siniora's government.

"You [Siniora's Cabinet] have been counting on American backing," he said. "It will not bring you any benefit."

Nasrallah called upon his supporters to "refrain from insulting and disrespecting ruling politicians," a reference to instances in which demonstrators have heaped profane abuse on Siniora and his ministers.

"The door is open for negotiations," he said, "but we will not leave the street before achieving the goal of saving Lebanon."

Beirut 08-12-2006
Rym Ghazal
The Daily Star

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