Nasrallah on Lebanon's Presidential Crisis
By Rym Ghazal. Daily Star.
BEIRUT: Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah cast a broad net on Sunday, vowing that no one could disarm his Hizbullah resistance fighters, recommending early parliamentary elections as a remedy to the standoff over Lebanon’s presidency, and warning that recent Israeli military exercises were preparation for a new conflict.
Nasrallah also reached out to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, many of whom live in camps near neighborhoods known as hotbeds of Hizbullah support, and voiced opposition to the government’s plans to privatize the country’s two mobile-phone networks.
In a televised address to a crowded Hizbullah rally in commemoration of Martyrs Day, Nasrallah promised that no power could force his group to give up its arms.
“If the whole world came and tried, it wouldn’t be capable of implementing the clause concerning the disarmament of the resistance in [UN Security Council] Resolution 1559,” he told the crowd.
Resolution 1559, adopted in late 2004, calls for the disarmament of all nonstate militias in Lebanon and has been one of the most contentious issues separating the Hizbullah-led opposition from the Western-backed government, as Hizbullah and numerous Palestinian groups remain armed.
Nasrallah told his followers that Hizbullah held exercises of its own in South Lebanon last weekend in response to the Israeli maneuvers near the border and to send “a clear message” to the Jewish state that Hizbullah fighters were prepared “day and night” to defend Lebanon.
“The enemy has been conducting military maneuvers for months. The latest maneuvers occurred a few weeks ago near the Lebanese border, in which 50,000 Israeli officers and soldiers participated,” he said. “These maneuvers are to prepare for an attack on Lebanon.”
Nasrallah said his fighters were ready and Hizbullah had the “determination, the will, the manpower and sufficient weapons” to face Israel in conflict.
“The resistance is ready, day and night, to defend South Lebanon as well as all of Lebanon … to achieve a historic victory that will change the face of the region,” he said.
Nasrallah also warned that Hizbullah and the opposition would “never” accept a new president elected by simple majority and without a two-thirds quorum of legislators, adding that if a consensus president could not be agreed upon in the upcoming days, then the country should hold early parliamentary elections.
“Let us hold early, transparent parliamentary elections where the true majority gets to elect the new president,” he said.
The Syrian-backed March 8 opposition has been unable for months to agree with the March 14 ruling coalition on a consensus successor to outgoing President Emile Lahoud. Three scheduled sessions in Parliament have been postponed because of the tussle, with the latest vote called for November 21.
Nasrallah thanked Lahoud for supporting the resistance and called on him to step in if a consensus were not reached.
“We appeal to His Excellency President Emile Lahoud to do what his conscience and national responsibility stipulates … and take a step or a national salvation initiative to stop the country from [sliding into] a vacuum,” said Nasrallah.
He did not elaborate on what he wanted Lahoud to do. Lahoud has threatened not to hand over power to the government if his term expires without a successor, and many have voiced fears of parallel governments arising, as happened at the end of Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War. Nasrallah also labeled the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora “a bunch of thieves and murderers” backed by the US and Israel. Siniora’s March 14 cohorts have said they plan to elect a president by simple majority if the feuding camps cannot agree on a consensus successor. The Constitution allows MPs to elect a new head of state by simple majority only a first session attended by two-thirds of MPs.
Addressing Lahoud, Nasrallah said, “Do not allow the country to fall into the hands of thieves and murderers.”
Nasrallah also turned his attention to reports of potential problems brewing in Beirut’s Palestinian refugee camps - Burj al-Barajneh, Sabra and Shatila - located near the Hizbullah-controlled southern suburbs.
He said his followers enjoyed “strong and good” relations with the Palestinians.
“There will be no war between the camps and their neighbors,” he said, calling on the Palestinians to act responsibly and not allow “strife to infiltrate the camps.”
The Lebanese Cabinet had called on Saturday for vigilance in the face of reports of new attempts by Islamist militants to infiltrate the country’s dozen Palestinian refugee camps.
The Hizbullah leader also warned against the recent move to privatize the cellular industry, a move long opposed by the opposition with accusations that the tender would be rigged to favor bidders close to the government.
“Just you wait and see who buys it up,” Nasrallah said, echoing the concerns of many observers who believe powerful politicians will steer the deal toward their cronies and/or relatives.