LEBANON: Hezbollah leader speaks for first time following government collapse

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Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah gave an address on TV on Sunday night to lay out Hezbollah’s rationale for orchestrating the collapse of the government last week.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah and its allies withdrew from the cabinet, dissolving the government and throwing Lebanon into a new phase of tense uncertainty.


Nasrallah explained in the clearest terms yet Hezbollah’s demands of the Lebanese state regarding the U.N.-backed tribunal that is expected soon to indict members of Hezbollah accused of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah wanted three things: the withdrawal of Lebanese judges from the tribunal, the withdrawal of Lebanese funding for the tribunal, the cancellation of the Lebanese state’s agreement with the tribunal.

‘This absolutely does not mean the abolishment of the tribunal or the indictments,’ Nasrallah said, although the group still believes the tribunal is a plot by Israel and the U.S. to target Hezbollah’s weapons.

‘If we had agreed to these points, we would be preventing conflict in Lebanon,’ he added.

He later added a fourth condition, the resolution of the ‘false witnesses file.’ Several of the tribunal’s key witnesses have had their credibility called into question, and Hezbollah has been demanding for months that the government convene to discuss it. Nasrallah then went on to accuse Hariri of seeking to bury the issue of false witnesses.

Nasrallah said a deal to resolve the tribunal matter was close to being struck with the help of Saudi Arabia, which backs the pro-tribunal March 14 coalition, led by the late Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, who was prime minister at the time of the government’s collapse last week, and Syria, a patron of Hezbollah.

But when Saad Hariri went to the United States to meet with President Obama and other American officials, Nasrallah said, the deal was suddenly off, leading him to conclude that external pressure had sabotaged the agreement.

Nasrallah suggested that the sealed indictments could be delivered to the tribunal pre-trail judge as early as Monday; if that occurs, their contents are not expected to be made public for another six weeks at the earliest.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut