Hariri vows to seek premiership despite Hizbullah

"They have put aside all solutions and demanded Saad Hariri be excluded..." says Lebanese caretaker PM in Beirut.

January 20, 2011 20:44
2 minute read.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, right, waves

hariri at rally 311 . (photo credit: AP)

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday promised he would seek to be the premier of a new government despite pressure from Hizbullah to step down, Reuters reported.

Talks to form a new Lebanese government were scheduled for next week.

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Speaking defiantly of Hizbullah, Hariri told a crowd in Beirut, "They have put aside all solutions and demanded Saad al Hariri be excluded ... we will go to constitutional talks on Monday with me as a candidate," he said.

One week ago, Hizbullah toppled his government and sparked fears that the country's political crisis could descend into street battles.

Hariri's Western-backed government fell last week over a dispute linked to the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Many fear that Hizbullah — widely expected to be indicted by the court — will react violently if accused.

In a televised address, Hariri said he would continue efforts to solve the crisis diplomatically. The most recent talks, involving Qatar and Turkey, failed to reach a compromise.

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"We will go to the consultations and we will give our opinion while committed to my nomination for the prime minister's post," the 40-year-old said, speaking in front of a poster of his father, who was killed in a massive truck bombing along Beirut's waterfront in 2005.

He also appealed for calm, saying: "Any drop of blood that falls from any Lebanese citizen is more important to me than any post."

Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt on Thursday said he is under great pressure not to name Hariri as the government's next premier despite earlier statements of support for him, Lebanese paper an-Nahar reported.

He told members of his party that insisting on Hariri as the country's new prime minister would lead to "catastrophic consequences" for the security of the Druse party, himself, and the Druse population in Hizbullah-controlled areas. He added that things "have become greater than him and his ability to maintain the middle ground in a harsh battle in which Hariri's regional and international backers only resort to statements, while his opponents (Hizbullah) turn to all manners of military and popular pressure," according to the report.

Jumblatt said that he is under pressure to name former Lebanese prime minister Omar Karami in place of Hariri.

Lebanese special police forces tightened security around the government palace and other official buildings Thursday amid growing fears that the country was headed toward violence.

A senior security official confirmed to The Associated Press that the security measures in and around Beirut stem from "concerns of movements on the ground by some parties." The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Special police forces were seen hauling cement barriers around the government house in Beirut and putting up reinforcements around government buildings and banks. Armored personnel carriers deployed to many areas of the city.

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