HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hezbollah vows to topple Beirut regime

HEZBOLLAH leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened today to bring down the US-backed Lebanese government and replace it with a new one, setting the stage for a showdown between the US's allies in Lebanon and the country's pro-Syrian and Iranian factions allied with Hezbollah.

In comments published in two Beirut newspapers and carried by Hezbollah's al-Manar TV station, Nasrallah told his supporters that he does not plan to return to negotiations on the structure of the current cabinet, and that the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora will soon be gone, deepening the political crisis that has been building since six ministers from Hezbollah and its allies resigned over the weekend.

"This government will go ... A new government is coming," Nasrallah was quoted as telling a gathering on Monday evening of residents left homeless by Israel's bombardment of Beirut's southern suburbs during this northern summer's war.

Nasrallah, who has rarely appeared in public since the July-August war, did not say how or when Hezbollah intends to bring about a new government, but his uncompromising remarks suggest he intends to press ahead with threats made late last month to force change by ordering his followers to take to the streets if negotiations failed to give Hezbollah a greater share of seats in the cabinet.

Since the collapse of those negotiations on Saturday, the Lebanese have been on tenterhooks, wondering whether their country once again is about to be plunged into turmoil that could risk provoking a renewed civil war.

Following a recent warning from Washington that Iran and Syria are teaming up with their Hezbollah allies to prepare to topple the Lebanese government, Iran issued its own warning on Tuesday that Lebanese should be prepared to challenge US and Israeli ambitions in Lebanon, further raising fears that the country is falling prey to regional rivalries.

At a meeting with Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally and leader of the Shi'ite Amal movement, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini told Lebanon "to prepare for all contingencies".

"Lebanon, God willing, will be the staging ground for the defeat of America and the Zionists," Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted as saying by al-Manar, Hezbollah's TV station.

"The political situation in the world and especially the region portend a new era. The policies of America in the region have failed and we must take advantage of the opportunities presented to us during this period."

The resignations of the six ministers, including all five Shi'ites represented in the government, triggered a political crisis that has called into question the legitimacy of what remains of the government.

Though the ruling coalition won a clear majority of seats in the parliament in the last election, under the rules of Lebanon's consensual democracy, all of the major sects must be represented in the cabinet, and the resignations leave the government without any Shi'ites, the country's largest Muslim group.

The depleted government on Monday approved a draft UN resolution establishing a tribunal to bring to justice those responsible for assassinating former prime minister Rafik Hariri, but the opposition has labeled the decision unconstitutional because no Shi'ites were present.

The current government is composed of the Sunni, Christian and Druze factions who united to push Syrian troops out of Lebanon in the wake of Hariri's assassination last February, which they blame on Syria.

Government officials have accused Hezbollah of walking out of the government in order to block the investigation.

In his speech, Nasrallah denied that, and countered with a fresh accusation against the government, saying that it had known in advance of Israel's plans to wage war to destroy Hezbollah and had encouraged the Israelis to "prolong" their offensive.

The allegation of government complicity in the war that killed an estimated 1000 Lebanese and left tens of thousands of people homeless, most of them Shi'ites from the south and from Beirut's suburbs, is likely further to exacerbate Shi'ite antagonism toward the government and escalate sectarian tensions.

Nasrallah addressed the country's civil war fears, taunting those represented in the current government over their claim that they represent a majority of Lebanese but also promising that he would not provoke violence.

"Some warn of a civil war," he said, according to the daily As-Safir newspaper. "If they claim to be in the majority, how come they are so terrified?

"This is our country, and we have given tens of thousands of martyrs, wounded and prisoners to protect it and preserve its glory and dignity," he added. "We will not waste these sacrifices and we will strive to maintain civil peace and stability."

Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org