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French Version

Day 3 : Hizbullah, Amal take West Beirut

March 14 Forces decry 'armed and bloody coup'

Lebanon's governing coalition, the March 14 Forces, accused Hizbullah of staging a military coup against the state and said that Hizbullah's arms have become illegitimate after they were used against their fellow Lebanese citizens.

"Hizbullah's claim that its arms were only targeted at Israel have proved false and invalid in the past two days, which witnessed the uses of such arms against the Lebanese people," the statement said.

Lebanese Forces boss Samir Geagea, reading the March 14 Forces statement after a meeting at his residence in Maarab, rejected Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's claim that the group's weapons were used against other Lebanese in a bid to protect Hizbullah's possession of arms.

In a news conference on Thursday, Nasrallah said that Hizbullah were ready to use their arms against other Lebanese, if the desired goal was to defend the resistance.

The March 14 statement compared "Hizbullah's occupation" of Beirut to the Israeli occupation of Beirut after the invasion of 1982.

"Beirut did not fall to Israel in the past and will not fall to Hizbullah today," the statement said.

Geagea also said that the Hizbullah "coup" was aimed at putting Syria back in control and increasing Iranian influence. "The armed and bloody coup which is being implemented aims to return Syria to Lebanon and extend Iran's reach to the Mediterranean."

The March 14 Forces reiterated their backing of the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and called on the Arab and international community to interfere to end the "coup" and put pressure on whoever is backing it.

Meanwhile, former President Amin Gemayel on Friday downplayed what he called "Hizbullah's alleged victory" and said that such "victory" is likely to hit back at Hizbullah.

Gemayel criticized Nasrallah for comparing the clashes in Beirut to the clashes fought by Hizbullah militants against the Israeli military during the summer 2006 war.

Gemayel said that Hizbullah has crossed all the red lines, adding that the ruling coalition was ready to engage in dialogue on the condition that the issue of Hizbullah arms would be the dialogue's first item.

The Phalange leader also condemned the attack on media organizations, referring to the attack against Future Television headquarters in Beirut. The Future TV building was attacked by members of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).

Gemayel also warned of the security situation in Lebanon and disclosed information about the presence of Al-Qaeda operatives in some of the country's Palestinian refugee camps.

Also on Friday, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt warned Hizbullah against invading the areas controlled by his party.

"Hizbullah need to know that we also have arms the same way they do," Jumblatt said in an interview with New TV.

However, Jumblatt denied his PSP or the Future Movement run organized militias.

The PSP leader proposed handing over the situation to the Lebanese army. "We should leave it to the army to decide what to do. Everybody trusts the army," he said.

Jumblatt also questioned whether the sacking of an army officer deserved the burning down of Beirut.

He was referring to the government's recent decision to remove Airport Security Chief Brigadier General Wafiq Shoucair from his post. The decision sparked the current crisis.

While expressing his readiness to engage in dialogue to end the crisis, Jumblatt vowed that he will remain in Beirut and will not leave his residence in the Clemenceau area.

Jumblatt's residence, which is under the army's protection, is reportedly under siege by opposition militants.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan, one of Jumblatt's chief rivals, contacted the PSP leader and assured him that he (Arslan) was against any action that risked the safety of Jumblatt.

Another rival of Jumblatt, Head of Tawheed Party Wiam Wahhab asked Jumblatt to remove all PSP security checkpoints in Mount Lebanon.

Earlier on Friday, Free Patriotic Movement leader General Michel Aoun said that the recent events have put the country back on the right track.

Aoun held the government responsible for the eruption of violence in Beirut and said that he had previously warned the United Nations Security Council that the situation in Lebanon could escalate at any time if the international community continued its support for the "illegitimate" Siniora government.

"I also warned them [the ruling coalition] not to arm themselves. I told them that they will not have the chance to use their arms," Aoun said.

The retired general, a leading figure of the Hizbullah-led opposition movement, described the seizure of most parts of west Beirut by Hizbullah and Amal Movement militants as a victory for Lebanon.

"It is not the victory of one party over the other. It is a victory for Lebanon."

In a related development, the Maronite League, in a six-point statement issued Friday, warned against the broadening of the eruption of inter-Lebanese violence in the country, adding that "these tragic clashes have brought back memories of the [1975-1990] Civil War in Lebanon."

The statement expressed concerns after the recent aggravation of the political crisis and the absence of dialogue between the government and the opposition coalition.

The Maronite League called for an immediate return to a multiparty dialogue and to take immediate actions to withdraw fighters out of the streets.

Beirut 10-05-2008
The Daily Star

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