Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suddenly the Statesman, Hezbollah's Nasrallah Calls for Lebanon Unity Government

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suddenly the Statesman, Hezbollah's Nasrallah Calls for Lebanon Unity Government

Article excerpt

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant Shiite group, Hezbollah, called on Sunday for the creation of a national unity government to usher Lebanon out of a political crisis.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant Shiite group, Hezbollah, called on Sunday for the creation of a national unity government to usher Lebanon out of a political crisis that threatens to deteriorate into sectarian violence.

"We [in the opposition] will request that the [new prime minister], yet to be named, forms a cabinet in which everyone participates," Mr. Nasrallah said in a live televised address. "We are not calling for a cabinet that excludes any party in Lebanon."

Nasrallah admitted in his address that his Hezbollah-led opposition bloc deliberately toppled Lebanon's government two weeks ago with a massive pullout in order to stall pending international indictments of Hezbollah leaders for the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. And his comments come on the eve of a parliamentary vote that could result in the formation of a new government dominated by Hezbollah and its political allies.

Such a development would greatly complicate Lebanon's relations with the international community, particularly over the fate of the Hariri tribunal. And Hezbollah's opponents are crying foul.

A 'coup' by Hezbollah

Current Prime Minister Saad Hariri's pro-Western March 14 coalition, which presently holds the parliamentary majority, on Sunday warned that Lebanon is in "danger" and that it would not allow "a militia [Hezbollah] to take over control of the state."

"Hezbollah has started a coup against the state ... and has toppled the government of national unity and this coup targets Lebanon's freedom," it said in a statement.

Jumblatt, the kingmaker

Mr. Hariri, son of the late Rafik Hariri, is the March 14 candidate for prime minister. The bloc has 60 seats in parliament. The opposition holds 57 parliamentary seats. The balance of 11 MPs fall within the bloc of Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze community. Although Mr. Jumblatt hinted early last week that he would nominate Hariri, on Friday he announced he was siding with "Syria and the resistance" and would select the opposition candidate. …

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