Hezbollah ready to form unity government again in Lebanon

Hezbollah and its allies are open to forming a new unity government for Lebanon should their candidate receive parliamentary support as prime minister, the Shi’ite group's leader Hassan Nasrallah (pictured) said Sunday.

Jan 24 ( KATAKAMI.COM / FRANCE 24) – Hezbollah and its allies are willing to be part of a new unity government with their rivals in Lebanon’s Western-backed political bloc if the candidate they are backing is chosen to be prime minister, the Shi’ite militant group’s leader said Sunday.

Talks on a new premier are to begin Monday, and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah appeared to be trying to calm tensions as the rift deepened between his group and a bloc led by caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Ministers from Hezbollah and its allies brought down the unity government Hariri had led on Jan. 12 because of differences over a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Many fear Hezbollah will react violently if its members are indicted, as is widely expected.

“In case the person we support is chosen to form the Cabinet we will work for this Cabinet to be a government of national unity,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “We do not seek to cancel anyone.”

That is significant because Hezbollah and its allies had appeared to be closing in on enough support in parliament to form a government on their own, if they had chosen to try to do so.

Hezbollah and its allies said they won’t back Hariri to form a new Cabinet during the two days of consultations that begin Monday. They have not publicly said whom they will name instead.

Nasrallah’s speech was seen as important sign of his movement’s mindset at a time when many fear the country’s political tension could descend into civil strife. His demeanor was calm and he emphasized that Hezbollah is working for change through constitutional means.

Nasrallah has said he expects members of his group to be indicted but has accused the Netherlands-based court of bias. The group has fiercely denied any role in the killing, and Nasrallah has said the group “will cut off the hand” of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members.

Also, Sunday Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim religious leaders warned Hezbollah not to ignore their sect’s opinion regarding their support for Hariri.

The clerics, led by Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, the Sunnis’ spiritual leader in Lebanon, said they support Hariri because he represents the majority of Sunnis.

“We warn against ignoring the Sunni majority and the parliament majority,” the leaders said in a statement. “We also warn against the dangers of an imposed government.”

Nasrallah appeared to reject such comments when he said that the prime minister’s post is “not a post of (sect) representation but a sovereign one.”

Nasrallah also thanked Walid Jumblatt, the influential leader of the Druse sect, for giving his support to Hezbollah and its allies at this “critical and sensitive moment.” It is not clear how many votes Jumblatt will give Hezbollah.

The support of at least 65 lawmakers is required to form a government in Lebanon’s 128-seat Parliament. Hezbollah and its allies already claim 57 seats. Saad Hariri has 60.

An indictment in the elder Hariri’s killing was filed last week but its contents likely will not be made public for weeks.  (*)

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