Hezbollah leader speaks on crisis

Hassan Nasrallah speaks for the first time since his party’s ministers quit the Lebanese government.

hassan nasrallah
The indictments come as caretaker prime minister Saad al-Hariri’s government is dealing with a political crisis [Reuters]

Hassan Nasrallah, leader Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, is delivering a televised speech, the first time since ministers from his party and its allies toppled the government of Saad al-Hariri, the prime minister.

The Al-Manar television reported earlier that Nasrallah would speak “on Sunday at 8:30pm (1830 GMT) on Al-Manar television to comment on the latest developments”.

Hariri’s government collapsed on Wednesday after Hezbollah and its allies resigned from the cabinet in a dispute over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probe into the 2005 murder of ex-premier Rafiq al-Hariri.

Prosecutors investigating the assassination of Hariri are expected to issue indictments in the case on Monday.

Naim Salem, an International Affairs and Diplomacy expert at Notre Dame University in Beirut, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that Hezbollah members are expected to be named in the chargesheet.

“The first likelihood is that members of Hezbollah will be indicted, but there is also a possibility that nationals of Iran or Syria will also be indicted,” Salem said.

“Hasan Nasrallah has already made three or four speeches and press conferences and he has always pointed the finger towards Israel.”

Daniel Bellemare, the prosecutor for STL, based in The Hague, is due to submit the chargesheet to a pre-trial judge on Monday.

Boutros Harb, the acting labour minister, confirmed the report.

“According to my information, the chargesheet will be submitted on Monday,” he told the AFP news agency.

Tribunal silent

According to the tribunal’s rules of procedure, Daniel Fransen, the pre-trial judge, will examine the findings before confirming the indictment. Arrest warrants or summonses would be issued later and the process could take six to 10 weeks.


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The STL declined to comment on the report.
“We will say it has been done the day it has been done, we won’t announce when this is going to take place,” spokesman Crispin Thorold told AFP.

The pending indictments have split Lebanon’s unity government, pitting the powerful Shia party Hezbollah against a Western-backed camp led by Hariri.

Hezbollah has said it would not accept the indictment of its members.

Salem said that any indictment will be a turning point and could stir up political and religious tensions, “but this possibility is very remote”.

“The reason is that the power of Hezbollah on the ground is much more than the others, and this will keep the situation calm,” Salem said.

In November, Nasrallah said that the group will “cut off the hand” of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members for the Hariri killing, raising fears of renewed violence in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, rival factions began jockeying to form a new government.

Michel Sleiman, the president who asked Hariri to stay on in a caretaker capacity, begins consultations with MPs on appointing a new premier on Monday.

On Saturday, Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, Lebanon’s leading Sunni religious leader, warned that the political stalemate could lead to “bloodshed and increase of pain and division”.

He said that stability was the need of the hour, and that the formation of a government by Hariri is “in the interest of Lebanon”.

Power broker

Under complicated power-sharing arrangements in multi-confessional Lebanon, the prime minister is always a Sunni Muslim.

On Saturday, Al-Akhbar, a newspaper close to Hezbollah, raised the name of Omar Karameh, who was prime minister at the time of Rafiq al-Hariri’s assassination.

For its part, the parliamentary majority headed by al-Hariri has ruled out any other candidate than him.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, seen as a possible deal maker, was in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon’s former powerbroker, for talks with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian prime minister.

Jumblatt, whose parliamentary bloc will be the first to meet with Sleiman, controls 11 seats in parliament that could make or break the next government.

The STL was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution to find and try the killers of al-Hariri, assassinated in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005 that also killed 22 other people.

A trial could open “four to six months” after the charges are confirmed, tribunal registrar Herman von Hebel told journalists in The Hague in December.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies