Friday, May 9, 2008

Nasrallah accuses ruling coalition of 'declaring war,' singles out Jumblatt

Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said during a press conference Thursday that Lebanon has entered a new phase of its political crisis and warned that a government crackdown on his party was tantamount to a "declaration of war." Nasrallah stressed that Hizbullah was ready to return to dialogue, linking talks to a government back-track regarding measures taken Tuesday.

The eruption of violence is immediately rooted in a Cabinet decision to take action against a Hizbullah communications network and reassign Rafik Hariri International Airport's security chief, General Wafiq Shucair, for failing to prevent Hizbullah's alleged video surveillance of a runway, among other potential breaches.

On the second day of anti-government protests and intensifying clashes between government supporters and opposition partisans, Nasrallah held the press conference to discuss "the issue of [Hizbullah's] communications networks, the debate surrounding airport video surveillance and the political crisis now facing us."

He described the fixed-line network that connects the group's officials, commanders and positions as a vital part of the military structure of the group, which fought Israel during that latter's 34-day war against Lebanon in 2006.

"The communications network is a significant part of the weapons of the resistance," Nasrallah declared. "I had said that we will cut the hand that targets the weapons of the resistance ... Today is the day to fulfill this decision."

The cleric also stressed that Hizbullah is ready to use its weapons to defend itself should the government "cartel" seek to impinge upon the rights of the resistance.

"We have the right to confront he who starts a war with us by defending our rights and our weapons. We have yet to use our weapons inside the country but will do so to protect our arsenal," he added.

"The [government] decision is tantamount to a declaration of war. This [signals] the start of a war ... on behalf of the United States and Israel," Nasrallah said during the conference, which was held via video link.

Nasrallah also escalated his rhetoric against a key March 14 stalwart Progressive Socialist Party leader and MP Walid Jumblatt, with whom the opposition has been trading jabs over the airport controversy and the communications debate.

The Hizbullah leader said "the current government boss - Mr. Walid Jumblatt - is a thief, a liar and a murderer. He sits there drawing red lines calling for members of the resistance to be taken to court."

"The airport is being transformed into a base for the CIA, FBI, and Mossad, which we cannot tolerate," added the Hizbullah leader. "Our honor and fate are more valuable than any other consideration."

"We will no longer accept being fired upon and killed in the streets ... We will not accept encroachment against our presence as a resistance," Nasrallah said. "We will shoot once shot at, strike back when struck at."

Downplaying the prospects of a Sunni-Shiite rift even as fighting was limited to factions supported mostly by those two communities, Nasrallah said the conflict in Lebanon was between factions supporting an "American-Israeli regional agenda" and parties opposed to any such scheme, irrespective of "religious or communal differences."

In response to accusations that the violence signaled an attempted opposition coup d'etat, Nasrallah said that "had we [the opposition] desired to orchestrate a coup, [members of the government] would have awoken in cells or been thrown into the sea."

Source: Daily Star (with Agencies)