|March 14 camp lashes out at Nasrallah
|Politicians from the ruling coalition on Monday responded to accusations from Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of "scheming" and "taking orders from the United States." Nasrallah said in a lengthy speech on Sunday that a national dialogue had failed and Hizbullah had "given up" on its demand for 11 ministers in a proposed 30-member national unity government.
MP Walid Jumblatt, a senior member of the ruling coalition, responded on Monday, describing Nasrallah as "the president of the republic of Hizbullah."
"Enough lies about the government, as the real problem is with UN Security Resolution 1701 and the seven-point plan and the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the South ... and the international peacekeepers," Jumblatt told Kuwaiti daily Al-Anbaa. "All these things prevent the Syrian and Iranian regimes from holding military exercises in the South."
Addressing a description of Lebanon as a "weak" state, Jumblatt said the "presence of [Hizbullah's] arms is one of the main reasons the state hasn't been able to become strong."
"When you become a strong state, then come and talk to us about us becoming a state within a state," Nasrallah had said.
The Druze leader said Nasrallah was "covering up" for his Syrian and Iranian allies by criticizing the draft of an international tribunal to try those accused of the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Jumblatt said he was "very surprised" that Nasrallah has made a "strange defense of the four generals" suspected in involvement of the Hariri assassination and other crimes.
"Did Nasrallah forget that he was part of this government that he criticizes so strongly, and did he forget he was part of the agreement for the cease-fire and the seven-point plan?" he asked.
Jumblatt said a referendum to decide the way forward proposed by Nasrallah was "against the democracy of consensus that prevails in Lebanon."
He also again accused Hizbullah of smuggling weapons from Syria, and questioned the presence of "a large number" of Syrian workers in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Aley and Choueifat, where "there isn't much construction going on."
In comments made over the weekend, Jumblatt accused Hizbullah of erecting "a state within a state," and urged the Lebanese Army to control tunnels allegedly used to smuggle weapons into Lebanon from Syria.
Resigned Energy and Water Minister Mohammed Fneish said he had had enough of "misleading statements" from the ruling March 14 Forces.
"The war of false words is shortlived," Fneish told reporters on Monday. "The majority is trying to cover up the true meddlers in the country, the United States and its allies."
Telecommunication Minister Marwan Hamadeh said Nasrallah had "admitted" that Hizbullah was a state within a state.
"He does not recognize the Lebanese state, and at the same time he is determined to hang on to his own state, together a clear admission by him of head-ing a state exclusive to him," Hamadeh said in a statement on Sunday.
Free Patriotic Movement MP Neamatallah Abi Nasr, a senior member of the opposition, bemoaned a crisis of "governance" and "dysfunctional democratic institutions."
"We are at a dangerous point and need to reach a solution through a national conference," Abi Nasr said. "Lebanon can't survive by isolating any sect."
Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat said Nasrallah had "killed Rafik Hariri again" with his speech.
"We need the international court" he argued.
Mount Lebanon Mufti Mohammed Ali al-Jouzo accused Nasrallah of leading a Syrian and Iranian party, and Hizbullah of "hiding behind the pretext of resistance to launch its own projects in the Lebanese arena."
The Hizbullah leader said Sunday that he was tired of repeating himself.
"We in the opposition became like beggars ... I don't want this 19-11 anymore," he said during a ceremony to honor 1,734 university graduates.
He made clear that he was speaking on behalf of Hizbullah and "not the opposition."
Nasrallah said "the doors are completely closed" to further dialogue and that only two solutions remained to the impasse in Beirut.
"Now we have to return to the people and hold a referendum or we carry out early parliamentary elections. These are the only two ways out now," he said. "Today the courageous decision is to return to the will of the Lebanese people."
He also told Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to "go ahead and replace" six opposition ministers who resigned in November.
"If we have to pick between a civil war and keeping the situation as it is, we prefer to continue with the political deadlock," he said, warning the majority to make their decision "soon."
"It is easier to reach a settlement now than later," he said, "because later we will be deciding whether or not to give you the 11" ministers.
Nasrallah also denied reports that Hizbullah would send the UN Security Council a list of changes to the draft for the international tribunal as "that would signify a consecration of the division of Lebanon and of the Security Council as a point of reference on this, Lebanese, constitutional question."
"Many have asked to see the list [of changes], including Iran and Saudi Arabia ... but we refuse to show it to anyone except the other Lebanese side," he said. "Unfortunately, the majority never wanted to discuss our changes seriously."
"[UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon and others have now become the experts on the Lebanese Constitution and have started to rule Lebanon," he quipped, criticizing pro-government MPs for having sent a petition to Ban to establish the court through the Security Council.
Nasrallah said the tribunal was "conceived in such a way as to return pre-established verdicts," and described four former security chiefs jailed in connection with the Hariri assassination as "political prisoners."
He was referring to Jamil Sayyed, Ali al-Hajj, Mustafa Hamdan and Raymond Azar, the former security chiefs detained since the Hariri slaying.
Nasrallah said Hizbullah would "maintain our course for the next 50 years" to prevent the majority from altering the Lebanese identity.
"They don't want a national army, they want a sectarian one they can manipulate, but the army will not give in to rule by militia leaders," he added.
He hailed President Emile Lahoud as a man who has withstood "wave after wave of insults and campaigns by the ruling majority."
The Daily Star