‘Hizbullah-led gov’t would turn Lebanon into Gaza’

Christian leader Samir Geagea warns Shi’ite party will ruin economy, repress personal rights; Druse leader Jumblatt throws weight behind Hizbullah and Syria.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
January 22, 2011 23:56
4 minute read.
Lebanese Christian leader Samir Geagea

Geagea 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

If Hizbullah dominates the next Lebanese government, Lebanon will “turn into Gaza,” Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, warned at a press conference in Beirut on Saturday.

Geagea also warned that in such a scenario, Lebanon’s economy would be devastated and freedoms would be repressed.

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The Christian leader was referring to Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 2007 and the devastation of its economy that followed. Both Hamas and Hizbullah are funded by Iran.

”Did any one wonder what will happen to the Lebanese pound if the other side assumes power in Lebanon?” Geagea asked.

On Friday, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt, a potential kingmaker in Lebanese politics threw his support on Friday behind Hizbullah, a major boost to the Shi’ite terrorist group that brought down the country’s Westernbacked government last week.

Jumblatt refused to say exactly how many lawmakers are with him, but his support is key ahead of parliamentary talks on Monday to pick a new prime minister.



Geagea said during his press conference Saturday that Jumblatt would not support Hizbullah if “the Democratic Gathering [Jumblatt’s party] had a choice.”

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the turmoil in Lebanon

Jumblatt’s announcement is the latest twist in a political crisis pitting the Syrianbacked Hizbullah against caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who said last week he will seek the premiership again.

“The party will stand firm in support of Syria and the resistance,” Jumblatt told reporters on Friday, referring to Hizbullah by its popular term.

Jumblatt’s decision portends lengthy negotiations between Lebanon’s Westernbacked 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 also backed by Iran, is Lebanon’s most potent military force.

Lebanon’s crisis stems from a UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, Saad’s father. Many fear Hizbullah will react violently if its members are named in the court’s sealed indictment as is widely expected.

The indictment was filed on Monday but its contents likely will not be made public for weeks.

Ministers from Hizbullah and its allies toppled the government on January 12 after walking out when Saad Hariri refused to renounce the tribunal.

Jumblatt, who was once one of the most ardent supporters of the tribunal, launched a scathing attack on the court on Friday, saying it poses a “threat to national unity and national security.”

Jumblatt’s turnaround was not entirely surprising. He has transformed himself from a close Syrian ally to a vociferous critic and back again over the years.

He joined the Westernbacked camp after Hariri’s death in 2005, calling for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad and blaming Damascus for his own father’s killing in 1977.

In 2009, Jumblatt announced he was leaving the Western-backed bloc to take a neutral stance in Lebanese politics. Later that year, he reconciled with Hizbullah.

Politician Mustafa Alloush, a Hariri loyalist, said Jumblatt had succumbed to Syrian pressure.

“This of course does not justify his position,” Alloush told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. We are all under pressure.”

Sounding reserved and grave, Jumblatt said he was forced to vote with Hizbullah after a Saudi-Syrian initiative to settle the crisis had fizzled.

Revealing for the first time the contents of the failed initiative, Jumblatt said it called for scrapping Lebanon’s cooperation with the Netherlands- based tribunal, halting Lebanese funding and withdrawing Lebanese judges.

Hizbullah and its allies want that to be a priority for the next government.

Jumblatt said all sides approved the initiative before it was derailed by “international parties” – a reference to interference by the US, which Hizbullah accused of pressuring Hariri.

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 57 seats. Saad Hariri has 60.

Jumblatt, whose bloc has 11 members, 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 support from at least five, which would mean he needed just three more to tip the balance.

In the Netherlands, the pretrial judge studying the indictment, Daniel Fransen, warned against leaks in the case.

A court decision released to the media said releasing the contents of the sealed indictment could amount to “interference with the tribunal’s administration of justice amounting to contempt.”



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