Wed, May 28, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Nasrallah warns Beirut not to use military force

DISARMAMENT Clashes erupted moments after Hassan Nasrallah told the new Lebanese president the state's weapons should not be used to settle political accounts

AP AND AFP , BEIRUT AND JERUSALEM

Young people carry pictures of new Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and local pop star Haifa Wehbe during celebrations organized by the March 11 Movement in downtown Beirut on Monday. Haifa held a concert in central Beirut on Monday to celebrate Suleiman's election.

PHOTO: AFP

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned Lebanon's government on Monday not to use military force against the Shiite Muslim militant group in a stern warning against any attempt by the country's new president to disarm the militia.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said in his inauguration speech on Sunday that there needs to be a dialog over the future of Hezbollah’s arsenal. The guerrilla group has rejected demands it disarm and has insisted its weapons are needed to protect Lebanon against Israel.

Nasrallah’s speech was his first since Hezbollah fighters seized several areas of Beirut earlier in the month, forcing the government to agree to a political deal that strengthened the group’s role in the government. He pledged to comply with an article in the Arab-brokered agreement that forbids the use of arms to achieve political gains.

But addressing tens of thousands of supporters in a playground in south Beirut, Nasrallah stressed that the state’s weapons should not be used against Hezbollah and its allies in the opposition.

“The resistance weapons should not be used to achieve political gains,” he said in a videolink speech to the crowds.

He has been in hiding fearing Israeli assassination.

“The state’s weapons should not be used to settle accounts with an opposition political party, or in favor of outside parties that weaken Lebanon’s strength and immunity in confronting Israel,” he said.

The parliamentary majority has repeatedly called for a defense strategy that would eventually integrate Hezbollah’s weapons into the national army. Hezbollah has resisted the calls and also balked at a requirement to disarm included in the UN resolution that ended a month-long war between Israel and the militant group in 2006.

Suleiman said on Sunday that he supports the UN and its resolutions but did not specifically mention the requirement for Hezbollah to disarm.

Nasrallah said that Hezbollah strongly supported the agreement signed by rival Lebanese factions in the Qatari capital of Doha, which gives the Syrian-backed opposition veto power in a new Cabinet, something the parliamentary majority has staunchly rejected in the past 18 months.

“The national unity government is not a victory against this majority,” Nasrallah said. “This country cannot rise and continue except through cooperation, consensus and solidarity.”

Nasrallah praised Suleiman’s inauguration speech and thanked Syria, Iran and other countries for helping to broker the Doha agreement.

Responding to critics from the parliamentary majority who accused Hezbollah of staging a coup this month to rule Lebanon, Nasrallah said his group was not interested in seizing power in this multi-sectarian nation of 4 million.

“We don’t want power. We don’t want to govern Lebanon or impose anything on the Lebanese people because we believe that Lebanon is an exceptional, diverse nation,” he said.

Supporters of Lebanon’s rival factions fired off gunshots in a Sunni Muslim district of Beirut on Monday night, a security official said.

“A clash took place in the Corniche Mazraa area and gunshots were fired,” the source said, asking not to be named.

Future Television, which is run by the camp of parliament majority head and Sunni leader Saad Hariri, said 16 people were wounded in an “attack on civilians” by Hezbollah.

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