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French Version

Lebanese opposition MPs seek to topple government

Group calls for one-day strike

Lebanese opposition MPs said Wednesday they would seek to topple the government in Parliament and called for the entire country's participation in a one-day national strike next week.

After a meeting of the opposition members at Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt's residence of Mukhtara - which 38 MPs attended - the anti-government group reiterated the call for an international investigation into last week's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The opposition has directly blamed Syrian and Lebanese intelligence forces for killing Hariri and their calls have come as Jumblatt has publicly said it is possible he may be next on Syria's list.

The opposition also called for dismissing Lebanese security chiefs and putting them on trial for failing to prevent the murder.

In an earlier interview with the Parisian newspaper Liberation, Jumblatt said: "Everything is possible. The Syrians have crossed the red line and they tell us 'you have to negotiate on our terms or we will kill you.'"

The MP added that Syria's mission is over and warned that "Hizbullah is a Syrian pressure card and is a frightening militia that may be used against us."

"The mere participation of Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in the recent meeting of pro-Syrian loyalists is a bad omen."

Jumblatt said Syrian President Bashar Assad had told Hariri in their last meeting in Damascus in August last year shortly before the extension of President Emile Lahoud's term, that "Lahoud is me."

That meeting between Hariri and Assad took place while Hariri was still prime minister and shortly before Lahoud's term was extended.

"That was the introduction of Syria's dictation of Lahoud's extension in September that led Hariri to resign and which touched off the current crisis," Jumblatt said.

Jumblatt also quoted Hariri as having told him that Bashar said: "If Chirac wants to get me out of Lebanon, I will destroy Lebanon. Jumblatt has Druze in the Chouf Mountains, but I also have Druze and I shall hit and destroy the Chouf Mountains."

In the statement read out by Beirut MP Walid Eido on Wednesday, the opposition said: "Opposition MPs confirm they will seek a no-confidence vote in the government during Monday's plenary session," called to discuss the assassination, they said after the two-hour meeting.

The statement, which renewed calls for finding who was behind the assassination, said the MPs would place Parliament's session under the following title: "We want the truth."

The opposition had demanded that Parliament suspend debate on the electoral law until authorities discover who killed Hariri.

The MPs said they would act in line with the Taif Accord until the agreement is fully implemented, the statement added.

The MPs welcomed the call of banking and economic committees to stage a general strike on Monday; the day Parliament meets, and urged the people to participate in it.

After Eido read the statement, Jumblatt urged visitors to Hariri's grave in downtown Beirut to only raise the Lebanese flag and chant the national anthem.

"Only the Lebanese flag expresses their feelings far from sensitivities," he said.

After that, Jumblatt met with Economy Minister Adnan Qassar, who said he came on a personal initiative. Jumblatt had at a previous date asked Qassar to resign from the government.

Qassar told reporters before meeting with Jumblatt that he would discuss the Chouf MP's request for his resignation as well as the situation in the country.

He said there must not be a constitutional void and that the government should not resign without another one being appointed, since that would harm both loyalists and opposition.

Qassar denied rumors that he could head the new government if the current government resigns or is toppled.

Beirut 25-02-2005
The Daily Star

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