Hariri: Hezbollah arms are root of Lebanon problem

Former Lebanese PM warns against Hezbollah's weapons, asks, "Is Hezbollah going to continue pointing arms at the Lebanese?"

By REUTERS
July 12, 2011 22:33
3 minute read.
Sa'ad Hariri in front of his father's picture

Hariri and Hariri 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BEIRUT - Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri made a verbal attack on Hezbollah on Tuesday and said its possession of arms was at the root of conflict in Lebanon.

Hariri, raising the intensity of his opposition to Hezbollah, which with its allies toppled his government in January, said indictments issued by the UN-backed tribunal seeking the killers of his father, Rafik Hariri, and which accuses four members of Hezbollah of involvement, would never be changed.

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"The weapons (of Hezbollah) are the cause of the problem in Lebanon. Hezbollah does not know what to do with its arms. It is our problem with Hezbollah and also it is a problem for Hezbollah," Hariri told a local television channel.

"What is it going to do with them? Is it going to continue pointing them at the Lebanese?" he said, speaking from Paris.

The group says it needed its weaponry to fight Israel, but in 2008 its supporters fought followers of Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, in sectarian clashes in which at least 81 people were killed.

Hezbollah and its allies brought down Hariri's national unity government, which included Hezbollah ministers, when he rejected their demand that he renounce the UN-backed tribunal.

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The group's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has repeatedly accused the tribunal of serving a political agenda -- to undermine Hezbollah -- and says it is a US and Israeli tool.

In a televised speech last week Nasrallah displayed documents purporting to show that when the tribunal was moving equipment from Lebanon to its base in The Netherlands in 2009, it sent a consignment of 97 computers via Israel -- which fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah five years ago -- rather than ship them directly from Beirut.

"If Nasrallah comes out in 300 press conferences, (he) will not change the content of the indictments," he said. "There are people accused (in connection with the killings) and they must be put on trial," he said.

Hariri said that if his government were still in power it would have found and handed over the suspects.

Nasrallah denies role in assassination

Hezbollah denies any role in the huge explosion on the Beirut seafront which killed Rafik Hariri, who served several terms as prime minister, and 22 others in February 2005.

The killing plunged Lebanon into a series of political crises and assassinations, and there were fears that the indictments could revive sectarian tension in a country still scarred by its 1975-90 civil war.

While Hezbollah is powerful enough to resist any attempt to act against its members, it is anxious that its domestic reputation as a force prepared to stand up to Israel should not be tarnished by accusations of involvement in internal conflict.

Hariri's March 14 alliance accused the government of Hezbollah-backed businessman Najib Mikati, formed in June after five months of political wrangling, of not giving whole-hearted endorsement to the U.N.-backed tribunal.

Mikati says his government will respect international resolutions and wants to reveal the truth behind Hariri's killing. Lebanon received the indictments this month.

Hariri said he would work with his allies to bring down Mikati's government "We will work on bringing down the government democratically. We can go to the streets for example," Hariri said.

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