Lebanon News

March 14 politicians spurn Nasrallah’s criticism

BEIRUT: Politicians from the March 14 rejected on Friday a call by the leader of Hizbullah to review their past behavior, saying that the resistance should instead commit itself to the Lebanese state.

Their comments came one day after Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declared that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon would likely indict rogue members of the party in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri made no public response to Nasrallah’s news conference on Thursday, in which the resistance leader said Hariri had informed him several months ago that such an indictment was on its way.

The general coordinator of March 14, former Jbeil MP Fares Soueid, said Nasrallah was “asking for a surrender, and not a self-evaluation” of the coalition’s previous stances, which involved strident accusations that Syria was behind the assassination.

“Nasrallah’s remarks were inaccurate, and rejected by the majority of Lebanese; he categorized them as ‘Israelis’ if they demand the truth, and justice, and ‘patriots’ if they do away with the logic of the truth and justice,” Soueid said in a radio interview.

“There’s one thing that can save Lebanon from domestic problems and strife, and that is for Hizbullah to return to the Lebanese state, according to the state’s conditions,” Soueid said.

Batroun MP Antoine Zahra, a Lebanese Forces official, said Nasrallah had accused March 14 of “dragging the country toward division and crisis, and [didn’t recognize] the achievement of our second independence, democracy, or development in national [political] life.”

Zahra said that “no one in Lebanon wants to target a Lebanese group, whoever it is, but this is one thing, and making accusation against the STL, based on a hypothetical situation, is another.”

Zahra said that there had “perhaps been exaggerations in certain political positions taken, but not by all March 14 groups.”

“The list of conditions being placed on March 14 leaders doesn’t a self-evaluation, but the abandonment of everything,” Zahra said, asking sarcastically “was everything ideal” during the period of Syria’s presence here.

For his part, former Tripoli MP Mustafa Alloush said that Nasrallah’s tone was “less harsh” compared to an earlier address, and stressed that any indictment by the STL should be backed by strong evidence.

“If it is a weak indictment, the Future Movement will have another position,” Alloush said.

Nasrallah blamed March 14 members for instigating sectarian tension in Lebanon in recent years, a period that included the killing of dozens of Syrian workers in Lebanon, along with the imprisonment of four senior security and military officials who were later released without being charged in the Hariri assassination.

National Liberal Party leader Dory Chamoun said he thought Nasrallah’s news conference was “inspired by” a foreign party, blaming Syria for pushing the Hizbullah leader to focus on the possibility that Damascus would be cleared in the Hariri case.

“If anyone wants compensation from Syria,” Chamoun said, “it’s the Lebanese people.”

Beirut MP Michel Pharaon, a March 14 member, said that Nasrallah’s criticism of the movement’s actions over the last five years was undeserved.

He said his colleagues in March 14 had decided to take part in National Dialogue sessions, re-establish formal ties with Syria, participate in the Doha Accord of 2008 to end civil strife, and share power in a National Unity Cabinet, as well as discuss a national defense strategy.

In a statement, Pharaoun said the issue of the STL was supported by a national consensus, and that the important thing was to remain committed to such policies, which were a part of the government’s policy statement.

Akkar MP Hadi Hobeish said Nasrallah’s latest remarks didn’t serve the interest of Hizbullah, accusing the party’s leader of “errors.” One of them, Hobeish said, was the claim that Hariri informed Nasrallah of the STL indictment’s content in May.

“This isn’t accurate at all,” Hobeish said, “because Hariri doesn’t know about the [content] of the indictment,” describing meetings between the two as tackling “ordinary matters.”

Hobeish said his rivals in the parliamentary minority were the ones who should be re-evaluating their policies of the last five years, which he noted involved a tent-city protest in downtown Beirut, and several weeks of civil strife in May 2008.

“No one is infallible,” Hobeish said, “but portraying the situation as if March 14 groups are wrong, while March 8 groups are saints,” is inaccurate, and covers up the reality, and the flagrant errors” that were made.

As for the parliamentary minority camp, Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh, an Amal Movement official, defended Nasrallah’s remarks and predicted that they would be a “prelude to a period of stability,” and not tension.

Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh told a television interview on Hizbullah’s Manar television that the STL was less an international tribunal than an expression of international political “will,” and said that a campaign was afoot to corner Hizbullah, after an earlier failure during the July 2006 war. Franjieh said it was unreasonable to expect Hizbullah to stand by without defending itself.

Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss, meanwhile, called on the STL to “re-evaluate” its impending decision, if the current speculation about the upcoming indictment turned out to be true.





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