BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri broke a four-month silence Tuesday to launch a blistering attack on Hezbollah and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whom he described as “Hezbollah’s surrogate,” and vowed not to compromise on truth and justice over his father’s assassination.
In a wide-ranging live television interview from Paris, Hariri also said that Lebanon would pay the price if Hezbollah did not cooperate with the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probing the 2005 assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri.
“If Hezbollah does not cooperate with the tribunal, then Lebanon will pay the price,” Hariri warned during his interview with Lebanese television station MTV.
Hezbollah, which denies involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, accuses the STL of being part of “American-Israeli project” aimed at targeting the resistance and has vowed not to cooperate with it. Lebanon has 30 days to serve the arrest warrants for the wanted suspects.
“If this were Saad Hariri’s government, we would have definitely searched for them and transferred them to the tribunal,” Hariri said, referring to recent indictments issued by the STL against four members of Hezbollah.
Hariri’s national unity government, which included members of the rival March 14 and March 8 coalitions, collapsed after Hezbollah-backed ministers resigned from the Cabinet.
The highly anticipated television appearance Tuesday was one of Hariri’s first since mid-March.
During the interview, Hariri launched a scathing attack on his successor, Najib Mikati, describing the Lebanese leader as “Hezbollah’s surrogate,” and his Cabinet as “Hezbollah’s government.”
Hariri said Mikati, his former ally during parliamentary elections in 2009, had betrayed him and asked his voters in Tripoli for forgiveness.
“We told Tripoli that we were with the tribunal, justice and the truth. The people voted for that. I want to apologize for the young men and women in Tripoli … I was betrayed by Mikati and [Tripoli MP Mohammad ] Safadi.”
Mikati was appointed prime minister on Jan 25 and his government won a vote of confidence in Parliament on June 30. The March 14 boycotted the vote and has vowed to use all democratic means to topple the new government over its ambiguous stance toward the STL.
“There will be no compromise on truth and justice,” Hariri said, rejecting claims by the March 8 coalition that the March 14 coalition’s stance toward the STL threatened stability in Lebanon.
Turning to the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons, Hariri said the country had been a victim of coercion at the hands of his political rivals, adding that Hezbollah wanted to see the end of him and his March 14 coalition.
“They want to finish March 14 and Saad Hariri ... I’ve said it before and I say it now, I will never abandon my allies,” the resolute-sounding Hariri said.
Hariri, who was in power just over a year following his appointment in November 2009, also denied that he had indirectly acted to reach a compromise on the STL in order to stay in power.
“I went to Syria five times and once to Iran. I wasn’t asking for power then, I was already in power,” Hariri said.
Dismissing reports that he was in exile due to security concerns, Hariri told MTV his absence had been to allow “the brothers [in the March 8 coalition]the chance to form the government since I’m always accused of obstructing things in the country.”
“I will return to Beirut as soon as possible,” he added.