Nasrallah: Hezbollah will not control next Lebanon government

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah

Lebanese president taps Hezbollah-backed candidate as next prime minister; Lebanese army reportedly arrests security officials of former PM Saad Hariri as demonstrations against Hezbollah ensue.

Jan 26 (KATAKAMI.COM / HAARETZ) — Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Tuesday that his organization will not be the leader of Lebanon’s new government, despite Hezbollah’s backing of the new Lebanese prime minister-designate, Najib Mikati.

“Hezbollah will not lead the next government… Najib Mikati is not a Hezbollah man,” Nasrallah said in a televised address to the people of Lebanon, in a bid to try to calm the ensuing riots in the country by supporters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose government was recently toppled by Hezbollah.

Nasrallah assured that prime minister-designate Najib Mikati is an unbiased candidate, and said that a government with Mikati’s leadership is an opportunity to calm the political crisis in the country.

The Hezbollah chief urged Mikati to form a national partnership government and called on Saad Hariri and his aides to stand by Mikati and help him in forming a unity government “for the sake of Lebanon’s security.”

“We have supported the nomination of … Mikati and we call on him to form a national partnership government. The Lebanese have a chance to close ranks,” said Nasrallah.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was defeated by Mikati at the end of a two-day consultation to choose a prime minister. Hariri has said he would not take part in the government if Mikati won.

Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government of the Western-backed Hariri two weeks ago, after he refused to reject an international tribunal into the 2005 assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The United Nations-backed tribunal is widely expected to name members of Hezbollah in upcoming indictments, which many fear could reignite hostilities between Lebanon’s rival Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Arabic language Al Arabiya TV network reported Tuesday that the Lebanese army has arrested three senior officials in former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s security staff on suspicion of incitement.

Hundreds of supporters of Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri waved flags and burned tires across the country on Tuesday, calling for a “day of wrath” after  Hezbollah won enough support for its pick to replace him as premier.

Hezbollah’s Sunni rivals, who support Hariri, demonstrated for a second day across the country including the capital Beirut and the main highway linking the capital with the southern port city of Sidon. A senior military official said several armed men fired in the air in west Beirut, but the army intervened and dispersed them.

The largest gathering Tuesday was in the northern city of Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni area and a hotbed of fundamentalists where thousands of people converged at a major square. Al-Jazeera said none of its crew was injured when protesters attacked the station’s van.

Soldiers also clashed with demonstrators in the town of Naameh, south of Beirut, and two civilians were wounded, security officials said.  (*)

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Lebanese lawmakers back Hezbollah candidate for PM

Lebanese soldiers patrol Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut January 25, 2011. Hundreds of supporters of caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri protested in north Lebanon on Tuesday against the expected nomination of Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati to form the next government. Photo : REUTERS/ Sharif Karim

BEIRUT, Jan 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – A majority of Lebanese lawmakers have voted to support thecandidate for prime minister backed by Iranian ally Hezbollah.

By the end of Tuesday’s voting, Najib Mikati had 68 votes. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri had 60.

The Shiite militant group is now in position to control Lebanon’s next government. The move has set off angry protests and drew warnings from the U.S. that its support could be in jeopardy.

Thousands of Sunnis waved flags, burned tires and torched a van belonging to Al-Jazeera on Tuesday during a “day of rage” to protest the gains by Hezbollah.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE.

Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of Sunnis waved flags, burned tires and torched a van belonging to Al-Jazeera on Tuesday during a “day of rage” to protest gains by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is on the brink of controlling Lebanon’s next government.

The largest gathering was in the northern city of Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni area and a hotbed of fundamentalists where thousands of people converged at a major square. Al-Jazeera said none of its crew was injured when protesters attacked the station’s van.

The protests come one day after the Iranian-backed Hezbollah — considered a terrorist organization by Washington — secured support in parliament to name its own candidate, former premier Najib Mikati, for the next prime minister.

The militant group’s Western-backed opponents maintain that having an Iranian proxy in control of Lebanon’s government would be disastrous and lead to international isolation.

Hezbollah’s Sunni rivals held protests across Lebanon, including the capital Beirut and the main highway linking the capital with the southern port city of Sidon. A senior military official said several armed men fired in the air in west Beirut, but the army intervened and dispersed them.

Many fear Lebanon’s political crisis could re-ignite sectarian fighting similar to Shiite-Sunni street clashes that killed 81 people in Beirut in 2008. But besides the protest in Tripoli, the gatherings Tuesday were mostly localized and not hugely disruptive.

Mikati urged calm Tuesday and said he wanted to represent all of Lebanon.

“This is a democratic process,” Mikati told reporters. “I want to rescue my country.”

Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman started a second day of consultations Tuesday with lawmakers to name a prime minister, but Mikati already has the 65 votes needed to clinch the position.

Hezbollah brought down caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Western-backed government on Jan. 12 when he refused the group’s demand to cease cooperation with a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hezbollah, which denies any role in the killing, is widely expected to be indicted.

The group can now either form its own government, leaving Hariri and his allies to become the opposition, or it can try to persuade Hariri to join a national unity government. In a speech Sunday night, Hezbollah leaderSheik Hassan Nasrallah said he favored a unity government.

Hariri said Monday he will not join a government headed by a Hezbollah-backed candidate. Hariri’s Future bloc declared a day of peaceful protests Tuesday — but called it a “day of rage” and played on the sectarian dimension of the conflict.

Lawmaker Moustafa Alloush said Monday night that Hezbollah is trying to “belittle the prime ministry” — a position that under Lebanon’s power sharing system is reserved only for Sunnis.

“Any person who accepts Hezbollah’s appointment of prime minister is a betrayal of the people of Tripoli,” Alloush said in a heated news conference, jabbing his finger toward the cameras.

The United States, which has poured in $720 million in military aid since 2006, has tried to move Lebanon firmly into a Western sphere and end the influence of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley warned Monday that continuing U.S. support for Lebanon would be “problematic” if Hezbollah takes a dominant role in the government, though he declined to say what the U.S. would do if Hezbollah’s candidate becomes prime minister.  (*)

Billionaire lawmaker may be Lebanon's next premier

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah

BEIRUT, Jan 24 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP) – A billionaire businessman with close relations to Syria is emerging as a candidate favored by Hezbollah to head Lebanon’s next government.

Lawmaker Nagib Mikati, who served briefly as premier in 2005, says he is seeking the post as a candidate of “moderation and accord.”

Hezbollah brought down the unity government headed by Saad Hariri on Jan. 12 because of differences over a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Mikati made his announcement hours before formal talks between Lebanon’s president and lawmakers were to begin Monday to pick a new prime minister.

A moderate politician, Mikati enjoys good relations with Syria as well as the pro-Western Hariri, who is seeking to keep the post.

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.  (*)

Nasrallah: US and Israel caused Lebanese gov't collapse

Photo File : Sheik Hassan Nasrallah

BEIRUT, Jan 17 (KATAKAMI.COM / JERUSALEM POST) — The leader of Hizbullah defended the decision to bring down Lebanon’s Western-backed government, saying the Shi’ite militant group did so without resorting to violence and will not be intimidated by world reaction.

In his first comments since the government collapse on Wednesday, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah also said Sunday that his bloc will not support Sa’ad Hariri returning to his post as prime minister in talks Monday on forming a new government.

“We carried out a constitutional, legal and democratic step to bring down the government. We did not use weapons,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “We are not scared of speeches, statements or anyone’s threats in this world.”

Eleven ministers allied to Hizbullah resigned from the Cabinet on Wednesday, enough to force the government to fall.

The crisis is the climax of long-simmering tensions over the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The court is expected to indict members of Hizbullah, which could re-ignite hostilities between Lebanon’s rival Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims. Rafik Hariri was a Sunni.

Hizbullah is Lebanon’s most powerful military force, with an arsenal that far outweighs that of the national army.

Sa’ad Hariri had refused Hizbullah’s demands to cease cooperation with the court, prompting Wednesday’s walkout.

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 Hizbullah will work for change through democratic means.

The US has denounced Hizbullah’s walkout as a transparent effort to subvert justice.

“The tribunal is an independent, international judicial process whose work is not subject to political influence, either from inside Lebanon or from outside,” US Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly said Sunday after meeting with Hariri. “The efforts by the Hizbullah-led coalition to collapse the Lebanese government only demonstrate their own fear and determination to undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.”

Since his ouster, Hariri has tried to rally international support in the US, France and Turkey.

The leaders of Turkey, Qatar and Syria will meet in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Monday to discuss the political crisis, Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported.

Lengthy negotiations lie ahead between Lebanon’s Western-backed blocs and the Hizbullah led-alliance. If those fail, Lebanon could see a resurgence of the street protests and violence that have bedeviled the country in the past.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will launch formal talks Monday on creating a new government, polling lawmakers on their choice before nominating a prime minister. According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite.

Each faith makes up about a third of Lebanon’s population of 4 million. (*)

Lebanese opposition agrees not to nominate Saad Hariri as PM: Hezbollah

Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is seen on broadcat screens at Hezbollah owned al-Manar TV in Beirut during his speech on January 16, 2010. AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO (Photo credit should read ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIRUT, Jan. 17 (KATAKAMI.COM / Xinhua) — Leader of the Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that the opposition had agreed not to nominate Saad Hariri for the post of prime minister in mandatory consultations scheduled on Monday, after the government collapsed as 11 ministers resigned last week.

“The opposition decided unanimously not to name Hariri tomorrow, ” the chief of Lebanon’s Shiite armed group said in a televised speech, while refusing to name their candidate for the post.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman called for binding consultations with lawmakers on Monday to form a new government.

Hariri’s government collapsed on Wednesday after Hezbollah and their allies in the March 8 coalition resigned in a dispute over indictment expected to be issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which has been probing his father’s assassination.

The indictment, which the UN-backed court’s tribunal is expected to submit to Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen on Monday, is widely believed to implicate “rogue” members of Hezbollah.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah would reveal in the coming days its plan to defend itself against the indictment.

“We will not allow our reputation and our dignity to be tarnished,” he said.

“We will not permit anyone to conspire against us or to unjustly accuse us of killing (Rafic Hariri),” Nasrallah said in the speech.

The Hezbollah chief reiterated that the Netherlands-based STL was a U.S.-Israeli tool to target Lebanon’s resistance against Israel.

“We will act to defend our dignity, our existence and our reputation,” he said.  (*)

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