BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah Wednesday blasted U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East vision and comments on the Lebanese group, urging the Arab League to withdraw its peace initiative.
In a fiery speech as part of celebrations for Lebanon’s Liberation Day, Nasrallah also for the first time discussed the unrest in Syria, urging Syrians to back their ruler and Lebanese not to interfere in its neighbor’s affairs or to help the U.S. target Damascus.
“What has Obama and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu left for the Palestinian people, Palestinian Authority and Palestinians factions? … What are the options left to Palestinians? … The Palestinians have only resistance to achieve liberation,” Nasrallah said in a live speech via video link to a rally celebrating Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000.
Citing Israel and the United States' unwillingness to offer the Palestinians anything, Nasrallah said the Arabs were left with only one option: armed resistance.
“They have left nothing for the Arabs but the choice of resistance,” Nasrallah said, adding that speeches required a response from Arab governments.
“The speeches offered a knockout blow to the Arab peace initiative [of 2002]. I call on the Arab League to take that initiative off the table ... it’s time to withdraw it," he said to cheers from the crowd, waving the yellow flag of Hezbollah.
Nasrallah also denied charges by Obama that the group was behind political assassination and said the remarks proved that an international court investigating the 2005 assassination of statesman Rafik Hariri was politicized.
The Hezbollah leader said Obama’s remarks to an AIPAC conference Sunday that Hezbollah was behind political assassinations and car bomb attacks were aimed at appeasing Israel.
"These accusations are baseless," Nasrallah said, adding that Obama had played judge and jury and issued a verdict before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon had even issued an indictment in the case.
This confirms Hezbollah's assertion that the tribunal was politicized, he said. The court is widely expected to indict members of the group in the killing of Hariri.
In his speech Nasrallah also stressed that his group would carry on in its anti-Israel struggle and said his group would maintain its arsenal, adding that no one could disarm it.
"Our rockets will remain, and they will stay efficient. No one will be able to take it away," Nasrallah said during a speech to mark the 11th anniversary of Israel's pullout from Lebanon.
Responding to media reports that his party was involved in unrest in several Arab countries, Nasrallah said the allegations were unfounded.
“Hezbollah denies any military role in Arab countries,” Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah chief also turned to the unrest that has been sweeping Lebanon’s neighbor Syria.
Describing Syria as Lebanon’s protector since the beginning of the country’s civil war in 1975, Nasrallah said the toppling of President Bashar Assad was an objective of the United States and Israel, adding that a recent visit by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Lebanon had the objective of gaining support for a resolution to target Damascus.
Nasrallah singled out Syria among countries in the region that have and are witnessing upheaval, including Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt.
"The difference between the Arab uprisings and Syria... is that President Assad is convinced that reforms are necessary, unlike Bahrain and other Arab countries," said Nasrallah, who has not appeared in public since 2008.
Nasrallah outlined four conditions that should be met in order to safeguard Syria, its regime and its people.
“All these factors impose on us … as a resistance to first be keen on Syria’s stability, its regime and people. Secondly, we urge the Syrians to protect the regime and give it time to bring in reforms … and to opt for dialogue rather than conflict. Thirdly, as Lebanese we must leave the Syrian people to sort out their own problems and not interfere. Fourthly, we [as Lebanese] must reject any resolutions against the Syrian regime.”
Turning to domestic affairs, Nasrallah said pressure by Washington on President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati was holding up the formation of a new government in Lebanon.
Mikati has been struggling to form a new government since he was appointed prime minister-designate on Jan. 25. The key hurdles cited as preventing Mikati forming a government include external pressure to ensure Lebanon abides by international resolutions - including backing for the STL – and internal divisions among parties involved in the Cabinet formation process.
Nasrallah also dismissed the idea that a government of technocrats was suitable for Lebanon, describing the country as “political to the bone.”
The Lebanese Forces, a member of the March 14 coalition, has urged that a Cabinet of technocrats be formed to end Lebanon’s government crisis.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah was eager that the Cabinet be formed as soon as possible but said he was not ready to put pressure on his allies to facilitate the process.