BEIRUT — A potential kingmaker in Lebanese politics threw his support Friday behind Hizbullah, a major boost to the Shi'ite militant group that brought down the country's Western-backed government last week.
Walid Jumblatt, the influential leader of the Druse sect, refused to say exactly how many lawmakers are with him, but his support is key for any candidate trying to form a government.
Hizbullah drills military takeover of Beirut
Saudi Arabia ends effort to mediate in Lebanon crisis
In recent days, Jumblatt has gone to Damascus for meetings with Hizbullah's patron, Syria.
"The party will stand firm in support of Syria and the resistance," Jumblatt told reporters, referring to Hizbullah by the popular term.On Thursday, Jumblatt said he was under great pressure not to name Hariri as the government's next premier despite earlier statements throwing his support behind him, Lebanese paper an-Nahar reported.
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.
Lebanon is enduring a serious political crisis over a UN tribunal
investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik
Hariri. Many fear Hizbullah will react violently if its members are
named in the court's indictments, which is widely expected.
Ministers from Hizbullah and its allies walked out of the government,
forcing its collapse, last week when Prime Minister Saad Hariri — the
son of the slain statesman — refused to renounce the tribunal.
Once one of the most ardent supporters of the tribunal, Jumblatt on
Friday launched a scathing attack on the court, saying it poses a
"threat to national unity and national security."
The support of at least 65 lawmakers is required to form a government in
Lebanon's 128-seat Parliament. Hizbullah and its allies already claim
Saad Hariri — who has stayed on as caretaker prime minister and will seek the post again — has 60.
Jumblatt refused to say whether he had secured the support of enough
lawmakers to allow Hizbullah and its allies to form their own
government. But he is known to have at least five from his 11-member
bloc, which means he needed to get just three more to tip the balance.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will launch formal talks Monday on
creating a new government, polling lawmakers on their choices before
nominating a prime minister. According to Lebanon's power-sharing
system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a
Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shi'ite Muslim.
Each faith makes up about a third of Lebanon's population of 4 million.
Lengthy negotiations could 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.
Hizbullah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, is Lebanon's most potent military force.