Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lebanon MP Nasrallah clearing way for more political murders

An anti-Syrian lawmaker in Lebanon has poured scorn on claims by Hassan Nasrallah that Israel is responsible for the spate of political assassinations in the country, Israel Radio reported Saturday. Lebanon MP Nasrallah clearing way for more political murders

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

An anti-Syrian lawmaker in Lebanon has poured scorn on claims by Hassan Nasrallah that Israel is responsible for the spate of political assassinations in the country, Israel Radio reported Saturday. Wail Abu Faur said that such remarks by the Hezbollah leader cleared the way for another politically motivated killing, by attempting to absolve Syria of any blame for the murders. In a televised speech broadcast Friday evening to his supporters to mark Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, Nasrallah accused Israel of killing anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon to cause strife and drag his militant movement into fighting other Lebanese communities. He said Israel has a network of agents working in Lebanon who are responsible for the assassinations. "If Israel is indeed to blame for what is happening in Lebanon, why is the Hezbollah-led opposition working to thwart the establishment of an international court to try the killers of the former prime minister [Rafik Hariri]," Abu Faur asked.

Hariri, who was vehemently opposed to Syria's then military presence in Lebanon, was killed in a massive car-bombing in Beirut in February 2005. His murder led to the "Cedar Revolution," a civil protest named for Lebanon's flag, and the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after almost three decades. Anti-Syrian groups that control the Lebanese government claim Damascus is behind a two-year killing spree that has left a number of anti-Syrian politicians and public figures dead. The latest was on September 19 when lawmaker Antoine Ghanem was killed in a Beirut car bombing a week before Parliament was to meet for the election of a new president.

Nasrallah, whose group leads the pro-Syrian opposition to Lebanon's U.S.-backed government, also warned the parliamentary majority against picking a president of their own to run the country if talks with the opposition failed, and called for polling the general population on their choice if the lawmakers fail to reach agreement. The Hezbollah chief said that the supposed Israeli attacks against members of Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority in the last two years were designed to drawn condemnation from that coalition against Damascus, Hezbollah's ally. "The hand that is killing is Israel's," he told thousands of supporters who occasionally interrupted his speech with roars of approval. "Israel has a sure interest in the assassinations, because its project is sedition... Israel wants the resistance [Hezbollah] to be dragged into internal strife and fighting to weaken and exhaust it," he said. "It [Israel] is the prime beneficiary of any internal strife in Lebanon."

Al-Quds Day is marked every year by Shi'ites across the world, on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan. It is held in protest against Israel's hold on Jerusalem, the city where Muslims believe Islam's Prophet Mohammed began his journey to heaven. Nasrallah also said that if the Arab world was to help the Palestinians, it would be able to "liberate Palestine to the 1967 borders at least." In previous years, Hezbollah used to mark Al-Quds Day with military marches through the streets of Beirut. On Friday, however, the guerilla group's top officials assembled with leaders of the Lebanese political factions close to it - including Palestinian ones - inside a tent in the capital. Nasrallah also referred to the upcoming Middle East peace summit to be held in Annapolis, Maryland in November. He said Israel and the United States plan on achieving normal relations for Israel with the Arab states without giving anything in return.

The Hezbollah leader called on Saudi Arabia to boycott the conference, and said: "Do not give this meeting Arab support. The Arabs are talking about peace, and Israel is beating the drums of regional war." They allege Syria wants to bring down U.S.-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government by killing off lawmakers and end his slim parliamentary majority. Syria denies any link to the killings and President Bashar Assad said earlier in the week that they were against Syria's interests.

Hezbollah and its allies in the opposition blocked a parliamentary session from electing a president on September 25. The 128-seat parliament will try again on Oct. 23 to elect a head of state to replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who leaves office on November 24. If Parliament fails to elect a president, Lebanon could face a power vacuum and the prospects of two rival governments. Nasrallah on Friday said Hezbollah would continue to work toward a consensus candidate, warning the governing majority against electing a president of their own without a consensus, saying that would be "unconstitutional and illegal - and even worse than a [power] vacuum." If no agreement could be reached among the politicians, he proposed going straight to the people. He proposed a constitutional amendment for the people to directly elect a president.

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