Δευτέρα, 26 Μαΐου 2008

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Nasrallah's speech to Hezbollah supporters comes after Lebanese leaders elected a new president

Hassan Nasrallah, 'the secretary-general of Hezbollah, has said that his organisation "is siding with the resistance in Iraq" in a speech to hundreds of thousands of supporters in Beirut, the Lebanese capital.
"The Iraqis, Shia and Sunni, who took part in the political process wanted to give it a chance," he said in his address on Monday.










"But now that the real American goal in Iraq has been exposed the Iraqi government is put to a test."
It is the first time Nasrallah has issued a challenge to the Iraqi government to take a stand against the US military presence in Iraq.













"The Americans allowed the elections and the formation of parliament and a government so that they get an Iraqi legitimisation of the occupation," he said, referring to a reported Iraqi-American agreement that would allow the US to have a permanent presence in Iraq.

The speech by Nasrallah, aired over a video link to supporters, was part of celebrations to mark eight years since Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon.

His address came a day after Michel Sleiman, a former chief of the Lebanese army, was elected as Lebanon's new president.

Sleiman, an ex-army chief, was elected in a parliamentary session after Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, helped broker a deal to end a dispute between rival political factions in Lebanon.

Nasrallah welcomed Sleiman's election as president, calling it a new chapter for Lebanon.
"The election of Michel Sleiman brings hope to the Lebanese of a new era and a new beginning," he said.
"His inaugural speech expressed the spirit of consensus that he promised to act upon in the upcoming period ... And this is what Lebanon needs."

Resistance call

Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's correspondent in southern Beirut, said Nasrallah praised the resistance against Israel in the early part of his speech.

"He was giving credit to the resistance that actually led to the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, even giving examples from Palestine and Iraq," he said.
But Khodr also said that he had sought to downplay suggestions that recent clashes in Beirut between pro- and anti-government forces were a sign of a growing sectarian divide in Lebanon.

"He said that in every country, there is disagreement - those who support resistance and those who do not," she said.

"He is trying to show that the battle and the power struggle in Beirut was not a Sunni-Shia clash - it was simply a power struggle between those who support the resistance and the other, who do not believe in the resistance's weapons," she said.

Appeal for reconciliation

Nasrallah's speech came after Lebanon's 127-member cabinet voted overwhelmingly in favour of Sleiman becoming president on Sunday.
In his inaugural speech on Sunday, Sleiman appealed to Lebanese political factions to work together to avoid internal strife.

Nasrallah said on Monday that Hezbollah did not want to take over the country or undermine political institutions.

Sleiman was elected Lebanon's president after
a deal was brokered in Qatar [AFP]
"I am speaking as Hezbollah - we dont power or authority, we don't to rule Lebanon, we do not want to impose our thought on the Lebanese," he said.

"They call us the party of wilayat al-faqih," he said, refering to accusations that Hezbollah wants to impose an Iranian-style regime in Lebanon.

"The Lebanon wilayat al-faqih means the Lebanon of diveristy and pluralism ... we shoud preserve it as such."
Lamis Andoni, Al Jazeera's Middle East analyst, said Nasrallah's speech, in regard to Lebanese politics, was conciliatory in tone.

She said: "Nasrallah is aiming to recast himself as a nationalist leader and distance himself from the sectarian overtones that have marred the recent fighting."
"His commitment to a pluralistic Lebanon reflects his keen awareness that recent confrontations have fuelled secterian fears and widened the divide."
"However, Nasrallah did not compromise on rejecting any attempt, even if it carried out by the Lebanese army, to disarm Hezbollah."

'Crucial selection'

Sleiman's election is part of a deal brokered on Wednesday in Doha, Qatar's capital, to end a political crisis that last month degenerated into violence.

Sixty-five people were killed when armed supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition took control of much of Beirut after the government moved to outlaw the group's private communications network.
The clashes were the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the country's 1975-1990 civil war.
The Doha accord allows the opposition to have veto power on key policy decisions in a new cabinet of national unity.

But while it brought the country back from the brink of civil war, it failed to address many key issues, including Hezbollah's weapons stockpile.

Lebanon's presidency had been vacant since November, when Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his term with no elected successor because of political disputes.
Nineteen previous parliamentary sessions to formally elect a new president failed due to boycotts by the opposition.

Source: Al Jazeera

Profile: Michel Sleiman

General Michel Sleiman is seen as a compromise president for Lebanon [AFP]

Michel Sleiman, the former head of the Lebanon's army since 1998, is the country's new president after rival politicians reached a power-sharing deal in Qatar.
He is widely seen as a unifying figure in Lebanon, where nearly every politician is considered to be either pro- or anti-Syrian.




The 59-year-old Maronite Christian, once seen as a supporter of Syria, was a key facilitator of ending Damascus' 29-year military presence in Lebanon in 2005.






Sleiman has earned respect from both Hezbollah, the Shia Muslim political party and armed resistance movement, and supporters of Fouad Siniora, Lebanon's prime minister.

He also gained support after refusing to deploy the military to crack down on massive anti-Syrian street demonstrations in March 2005, days after the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister.

'Call of duty'

Sleiman, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political and administrative sciences from Lebanese University, has said his 56,000-strong army should ignore politics "and listen to the call of duty".
Lebanon's army defeated fighters at Nahr
al-Bared refugee camp after a long siege [AFP]
"The state exists because the army is the guardian of the structure of this state," he has said.

His profile as a strong Lebanese leader was boosted after the Lebanese army cleared the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp of al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam fighters after a 15-week siege earlier this year.

Under his command, the army also calmed sectarian violence and deployed in strongholds of Hezbollah.
The Lebanese public view the army as the country's most effective state organ.

'Strong leader'

The army is currently working alongside a multi-national UN force in southern Lebanon, acting as a buffer between Hezbollah and Israel, who fought each other in 2006.

Since al-Hariri's assassination in February 2005, Lebanon has seen increased sectarian tensions.
Sunni Muslims in Lebanon largely support Siniora's majority bloc in parliament while most Shia Muslims support the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Sleiman has distanced himself from Hezbollah, which once co-operated closely with the military, but critics accuse him of not doing enough to stop weapons smuggling to Hezbollah from Syria.
And during the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, the Lebanese military stood back.

Source: Al Jazeera

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