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Beirut: Opposition Targets Hizbullah's Arsenal

Opposition leaders in Lebanon say they will not enter a dialogue with the government unless Hizbullah's disarmament is discussed first.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/3/2011, 6:29 PM

Lebanon's March 14 opposition factions insist any future dialogue to resolve political disputes must include a discussion of Hizbullah's terror militias and munitions.

Talk of the possibility of re-launching dialogue resurfaced after Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced he would meet President Michel Sleiman to discuss the proposal.

Sleiman has repeatedly called for the revival of the dialogue to bridge the gap between lawmakers – who have locked horns in no fewer than five cabinet crises since July – but his calls went unheeded.

Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat instead reiterated on Thursday that the March 14 coalition would never accept Hizbullah's arms and terror militias as legitimate.

“It is important to continue dialogue on a permanent basis to discuss the controversial national issues,” Fatfat told a local radio station. “But, the opposition cannot give in and accept the existence of illegitimate weapons that challenge Lebanon's security every day.”

The head of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, MP Fouad Siniora, also said no talks would be forthcoming if Hizbullah's arms weren't on the table.

“Hizbullah’s arms should have priority in any new dialogue followed by a discussion of defense strategy not the opposite way around,” Siniora was quoted as saying.

March 14 lawmakers, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, have voiced skepticism about proposals that the dialogue resume, insisting Hizbullah's arsenal must be discussed.

Hizbullah, they charge, uses its arms to undermine the sovereignty of the Lebanese people and the government in Beirut. They also charge the terror organization with using political assassination and threats of violence to corrupt Lebanon's political processes.

Even worse, they say, is Hizbullah's setting its own foreign policy and territorial claims in the name of 'resistance,' which has drawn Beirut into devastating wars with Israel in the past.

Hizbullah maintains its militias and munitions are not up for debate, saying the tripartite formula of “the people, the army, and the resistance” is the only means of protecting the country.

However, Hizbullah intransigence is responsible for the instability of the current government headed by Najib Mikati, mostly due to disputes over funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). 

The Hague-backed STL indicted four Hizbullah terrorists for the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri earlier this year.

The last round of dialogue, held in late 2010, was boycotted by most March 8 leaders amid mounting divisions between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions over the STL.

That dispute ultimately resulted in the collapse of the cabinet of Saad Hariri, son of Rafiq Hariri, on Jan. 12.

Hariri has been abroad for over eight months due to concerns for his security as the symbolic head of opposition to Iran-backed Shiite Hizbullah.

During his absence from the country he has met numerous European and Gulf Arab leaders – Including Iran's arch-rival King Abdullah II of Saudi Arabia.