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French Version

Siniora accuses Hizbullah of plotting coup d'etat

Premier rejects 'unnecessary fit of anger and rudeness' from nasrallah

Lebanon's prime minister lashed out Hizbullah and its leader on Friday, accusing the group of plotting a coup d'etat against his government.

Speaking during a news conference in the Grand Serail in response to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Thursday, Siniora said the Hizbullah chief's "position yesterday has shown that he is attempting a coup, or at least he is threatening to carry one out."

The prime minister's comments came as the UN Security Council was preparing to meet on Monday to discuss Resolution 1701 - which brokered a cease-fire on August 14 between Israel and Lebanon - as well as a French-sponsored draft resolution expressing support for Siniora's government and warning against outside attempts to destabilize it.

Siniora, in his speech Friday which lasted over an hour, refuted almost all of the accusations and claims Nasrallah made via video link to tens of thousands of opposition demonstrators in the heart of Beirut.

"Last night was an unnecessary fit of anger and rudeness that we don't accept," said Siniora, occasionally smiling and joking with a cheering delegation of supporters from his hometown of Sidon.

In his highly charged speech on Thursday, Nasrallah accused Siniora of having ordered the Lebanese Army to confiscate some of Hizbullah's weapons during the July-August war with Israel.

"The army responded to that accusation," said the premier, "and I will not speak any further on this, as Nasrallah knows who Fouad Siniora is... Siniora is the one who did everything he could to protect the resistance during and after the war."

He rebuked Nasrallah for "erasing" the thousands of Lebanese who "opened their homes and lives to the displaced and hurt in the war."

"Where are they?" he asked Nasrallah. "Have we forgotten them all? They don't count as support to the resistance?"

"Who made you a judge over us to decide who is a traitor or a nationalist or who is right and who is wrong?" asked Siniora, engaging in an unprecedented personal attack against Nasrallah a day after the Shiite leader made several personal jabs against the premier and his government.

Siniora said that Nasrallah and his party "are losing popularity across Lebanon and the Arab world by hampering the work of the state."

"How can [Nasrallah] talk about openness, dialogue, democracy and peaceful actions? All this is sloganeering because his speech contains threats and the seeds of discord," the prime minister said.

Siniora also repeatedly pleaded for calm from Nasrallah and his supporters. He also called on his supporters to refrain from insulting the demonstrators in Downtown Beirut in order to prevent any strife in the country.

"We never launch any attacks against the demonstrators as I always expressed respect for the demonstrators' right to express themselves," said Siniora.

He then held a prayer for Ahmad Mahmoud, 20, who was killed during clashes between Shiite and Sunnis in Tariq al-Jdideh last Sunday.

Regarding early parliamentary elections, which the opposition is calling for, and Nasrallah's claims that the "majority will change" if early elections are held, Siniora asked: "How is Nasrallah forecasting the results of the election? Can he tell the future by reading palms or coffee grains?"

Siniora also said Syria is "dear to me, after Lebanon" and that his government "is working hard at assisting in issues of concern to Hizbullah and all the Lebanese, such as the liberation of Shebaa Farms."

He added that he doesn't "appreciate accusations of outside influence" on his Cabinet.

"We all know Iran is donating money to a part of Lebanon, but why not do it in a transparent and direct way via the government's bank?" asked Siniora, dismissing allegations that his government is a puppet government for the US.

However, despite the sharp words from both leaders, both have said the door is still open for dialogue.

"Our hand and heart is open and we will continue," said Siniora. "We won't dig trenches in Beirut streets; we will build bridges of love among the Lebanese, Christian and Muslim."

"There is no such thing as victory for Lebanon by one team winning over another," he said. "It's only a victory when all sides win together."

"The Lebanese have had enough, they want to live," the prime minister shouted at the end of his speech.

Siniora's ally, Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, also responded to Nasrallah's speech, saying: "Threats and accusations do not leave room for dialogue and discussions."

"Nasrallah's speech made the Israeli and Syrian leaders happy, as it could lead to strife and was uncalled for," Hariri said in a television interview with Egypt's Al-Nile channel on Friday. "We need calm ... and we need to return to dialogue and get Lebanon out of this crisis."

Beirut 09-12-2006
Rym Ghazal
The Daily Star

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