US Meddling In Lebanon’s Crisis, Hezbollah Won’t Be Dragged into Strife – Deputy Secretary General
By Reuters, Edited by Staff
Hezbollah accused the United States of meddling in the formation of a new Lebanese government on Friday, its strongest accusation yet of US interference in Lebanon’s political and economic crisis.
As Lebanon grapples with the worst economic crisis since its 1975-90 civil war, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General His Eminence Sheikh Naim Qassem told Reuters he did not see signs of a new conflict. Hezbollah would not be dragged into strife, he stressed.
He also said the economic crisis which has spread to the banking system was hitting Hezbollah followers along with everyone else in Lebanon. The party backed putting corrupt officials on trial “regardless of who they are”, Sheik Qassem added.
Already grappling with an economic crisis, Lebanon has slid even deeper into turmoil since protests erupted against the ruling elite last month, fueled by anger over the corruption of the sectarian politicians who have dominated Lebanon for years.
US dollars have grown scarce, the Lebanese pound has weakened and capital flight from the banking system has led banks to impose controls on depositors.
The protests led Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to quit office on Oct. 29, toppling a coalition government that included Hezbollah.
“The first obstruction in the formation of the government is America, because it wants a government that resembles it and we want a government that resembles the Lebanese people,” Sheikh Qassem said. The crisis would continue, he noted, until foreign parties give up on trying to achieve their goals.
US officials had been in direct contact with Lebanese politicians and officials, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General said. “Let them leave us alone so we can reach an understanding among ourselves. The more they intervene the more they delay the solution.”
Asked why Hezbollah and its allies had not opted to form a cabinet on their own, Sheikh Qassem emphasized that the party preferred the prime minister be chosen through agreement with the main parties.
The position is reserved for a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system. Hariri is Lebanon’s leading Sunni. “There are continuous contacts between Hezbollah and Hariri to pick the prime minister,” Sheikh Qassem said.
Meanwhile, the United States has confessed that it stands by protesters who are demanding reforms and an end to corruption, claiming that it is ready to work with a new government that can build a stable, prosperous and independent Lebanon.
Putting the Corrupt On Trial
Sources close to Hariri have said he is sticking by his demand for a cabinet of experts because he believes it would be best placed to secure international support and steer Lebanon out of crisis.
According to Sheikh Qassem, the first step towards dealing with the crisis would be the formation of a government which should start by implementing an emergency economic plan after amending it if necessary.
The causes of the crisis included bad policies and corruption, he said.
“We support the people 100% in putting the corrupt on trial,” he said. “The corrupt must stand trial in Lebanon regardless of who they are ... we support all measures that limit corruption and that recover looted wealth.”
“I do not see signs of a civil war in Lebanon. Hezbollah is determined not to fall into strife that America wants. But we have information of American attempts to create some security problems,” he pointed out.