Nasrallah insists Hezbollah must be part of any Lebanese cabinet
BEIRUT –The secretary-general of the Lebanese Iran-backed Hezbollah movement Hassan Nasrallah absolved himself Tuesday of French accusations that he obstructed the formation of Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib’s government.
In a televised address, Nasrallah struggled to defend himself after having previously confronted and attacked his opponents.
During the address, the Hezbollah chief also attacked French President Emmanuel Macron, who is leading strenuous efforts to quickly form a new government in Lebanon and initiate deep reforms to end the economic crisis afflicting the country.
Nasrallah diminished hopes of soon reaching a consensus to form a new government, by focusing on the need for Hezbollah to be represented, meaning that the party rejects the idea of a non-partisan government of experts.
Nasrallah stressed in his speech the importance of Hezbollah’s participation in the next cabinet.
“We must be in the government, through partisans or non-partisans,” he said.
“We must stay in the government in order to protect resistance. We will join any future government because we care about what remains of the Lebanese economy, politics and other issues,” he added.
Hezbollah’s leader said the Shia movement welcomed French efforts to help Lebanon out of crisis but that did not mean Macron could act like the country’s ruler.
Nasrallah said the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah remained ready for dialogue under the French roadmap to pull the nation out of financial meltdown. But he called for reviewing what he called a “patronising behaviour.”
Macron rebuked Lebanese sectarian leaders for failing to swiftly agree on a new government. It was the first step in the French plan seeking to rally them to launch reforms that could unlock billions of dollars — cash Lebanon desperately needs.
The French president said he was “ashamed” of Lebanese politicians and deemed it a betrayal as his initiative faltered.
Macron criticised Lebanon’s two main Shia parties, Hezbollah and its ally Amal, whose demand to name some ministers, particularly the finance post, was at the heart of the logjam.
“We did not commit to agreeing a government in any shape or form,” Nasrallah said.
“We welcomed President Macron when he visited Lebanon and we welcomed the French initiative, but not for him to be judge, jury and executioner, and ruler of Lebanon,” he said.
To Macron’s accusation’s of betrayal, Nasrallah retorted angrily, saying, “Who says it’s a betrayal?”
“We do not accept to be accused of betrayal and we condemn this behaviour. We do not accept those who claim we are corrupt. If the French have any corruption claims against any of Hezbollah’s ministers, they should submit it in order to immediately hold him accountable.”
Meanwhile, he added, “We do not play the game of terror or scare anyone. I hope that France does not listen to what some Lebanese say about Iran, which does not interfere in Lebanese affairs. We are not dictated. We decide what we want to do in Lebanon.”
Nasrallah accused Sunni leader Saad Hariri, along with other former prime ministers, of pulling the strings in an attempt to exploit the French intervention to score political points. He blamed them for seeking to sideline Hezbollah and its allies, which hold a majority in parliament.
Nasrallah also responded to accusations made by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Hezbollah is hiding weapons between Beirut and Al-Dahiyeh, Hezbollah’s stronghold, and that they will be detonated.
“Hezbollah is going to invite all mass media to visit this place in order to expose Netanyahu’s lies live on air,” he declared, adding: “We do not hide our rockets, neither in the Port of Beirut nor near a gas station. We know very well where to hide them.”
Adib, tasked with forming a new cabinet, quit at the weekend amid wrangling over seats. He had sought to shake up control of ministries, some of which have been held by the same factions for years, including the finance post – which will have a hand in drawing up plans for moving out of the economic collapse.
The crisis, Lebanon’s worst since its 1975-1990 civil war, has pushed the country to the breaking point, eroding its currency. Macron swept in after the huge August blast at Beirut’s port, which killed nearly 200 people, ravaged the capital and prompted the government to resign.
The Amal Movement, which picked the last finance minister, said earlier it respected Macron’s role but was “surprised” by his comments holding it responsible for the deadlock.