Lebanese politician warns of civil war

Pro-government, anti-Syria critic Jumblatt to Hizbullah: We will take your rockets from you.

jumblatt 224.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
jumblatt 224.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A leading pro-government Lebanese politician warned Sunday that his coalition is ready for war if that's what Syrian-backed opposition wants, adding that they would take Hizbullah's much-vaunted rockets away from it. Walid Jumblatt, a leading member of the anti-Syrian majority in parliament and a strong critic of Hizbullah, made his comments from his Druze stronghold in Mount Lebanon, soon after the country's deadlocked factions postponed presidential elections for a 14th time. "If you think that we will stand idle, this is your imagination. We might be forced to burn everything. Our existence, dignity and Lebanon are more important than anything," he said. "If you want anarchy, you are welcome. If you want war, we welcome war," said Jumblatt, who was interrupted several times by the cheers of hundreds of his supporters. Lebanon is in the midst of its worst political crisis since the end of its 1975-90 civil war. Former President Emile Lahoud left office on Nov. 23 without a successor, and parliament has so far failed to elect the army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman to replace him amid bickering between the parliament majority and the opposition. Confrontational rhetoric by the pro-government groups has been on the rise in recent days as they prepare for a massive demonstration in Beirut Thursday to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. "We have no problem with weapons, and no problems with rockets. We will take your rockets from you," Jumblatt said in an apparent reference to Hizbullah, which says it has thousands of different types of rockets, that have in the past been used against neighboring Israel. On Thursday, Saad Hariri, the late prime minister's son and the leader of Lebanon's pro-Western parliament majority, pledged to stand firm against what he described as Syrian and Iranian attempts to undermine the country. "We have no choice ... but to be steadfast ... to prevent the collapse of Lebanon in the traps of the Syrian and Iranian regimes," Hariri said in a speech. While both the government and the opposition agree on electing army chief Suleiman as president, the opposition is holding up the final decision in effort to gain a greater measure of power in the future government.