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Hizbullah flexes political muscles (Daily Star)

Resistance group and its allies call for peaceful pro-Lebanon demonstration

Lebanon's Hizbullah group and its local allies called for a peaceful mass demonstration in central Beirut on Tuesday to rally support against what it called "foreign intervention."

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Hizbullah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that the demonstration would be a rejection of "foreign intervention that runs contrary to freedom, sovereignty and independence."

He added it was also to "denounce the Resolution 1559, to show thanks, loyalty and appreciation to the Syrian leadership, people and army for its achievements in Lebanon."

UN Resolution 1559 also calls for the disarming of Hizbullah in addition to the withdrawal of Syria.

The announcement followed a meeting in southern Beirut on Sunday between Hizbullah and more than 30 other political groupings.

For the first time since its launch, Hizbullah decided to flex its political muscles directly in domestic affairs in a sudden move that astounded some opposition leaders.

Nasrallah said: "Following the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, the country entered a new phase in which Hizbullah must have a say in crucial issues confronting Lebanon and the resistance movement."

He added: "We will intervene in local politics by means of peaceful democratic rallies demonstrations and sit-ins."

Nasrallah also invited opposition groups, which have maintained protests to demand a Syrian pullout since Hariri's death, to join the rally.

Opposition groups, which blamed the pro-Syrian regime and Damascus for the assassination that plunged the country into a crisis, plan to stage another demonstration Monday to mark three weeks since Hariri's killing.

Former President Amin Gemayel said: "I am astonished why Hizbullah decided to act at the time when the Syrian president worked along Resolution 1559 and announced clearly his troops' withdrawal."

Nasrallah said he "understood" the reasons behind Syria's positive approach to UN Resolution 1559 but he strongly dismissed the demands embedded in the resolution for Hizbullah's disarmament.

He said: "All the articles of the resolution give free services to the Israeli enemy who should have been made accountable for their crimes and now find that they are being rewarded for those crimes."

He added: "The resistance will not give up its arms because Lebanon needs the resistance to defend it even if I am optimistic that Israel will soon withdraw from the Shebaa Farms."

Gemayel also expressed concern that Tuesday's planned demonstrations would be violent.

The atmosphere in Beirut has grown more tense after the euphoria that followed the government's resignation last week.

An 18-year-old Lebanese youth was wounded in a shooting incident late Sunday night in Gemmayze, near Downtown Beirut.

Nasrallah, however, insisted the rally would be "civilized, peaceful and well organized, displaying the Lebanese flag only."

He added it would take place at Riad Solh Square in a bid to avoid Martyrs' Square, where thousands of anti-Syria and government protestors are still gathered, and the adjacent area where Hariri is buried out of respect for both.

Nasrallah insisted that any withdrawal should be within the framework of the Taif Accord, which he said protected the resistance and good relations with Syria.

He said: "I trust most of the opposition leaders and applaud their commitment to sovereignty and freedom. However, we should deny access to those few who seek foreign intervention."

Nasrallah added: "Sovereignty and freedom means to be masters of our own destiny. We are ready to unite with the opposition in the fight for true freedom and independence."

He added that in preserving civil peace the state institutions are a red line. "If we cross them, the country would return to square one in the history of the Lebanese crisis."

"Some claim wrongly that the Taif Accord is not suitable as basis to build the state," he said. "It is our combined obligation to safeguard the legitimacy of the state and consolidate its institutions. Any reform or advancement in this arena should go through the constitutional channels."

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Beirut 07-03-2005
Adnan El Ghoul
The Daily Star



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