Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Hezbollah said that it does not have anything to fear in the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, demanding that the investigation of the crime take its objective course.
In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, Sheikh Naeem Qasim the deputy secretary general of Hezbollah responded to "suggestions" by Deputy Walid Junblatt about the place from which the booby-trapped vehicle used in the crime was dispatched. He said, "My information is that they will replace German Investigator Detlev Mehlis with a Belgian investigator. I have no knowledge of other investigators coming on the line."
The text of the interview follows:
(Q) Can we say that the return of the boycotting ministers to the government has become imminent?
(A) Dialogue is taking place between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, on one hand, and Deputy Saad al-Hariri and Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, on the other. The dialogue has been serious and effective. However, I cannot talk about achievements before we make the final steps toward an understanding that will return us to the previous status quo in terms of maintaining sound and correct administration based on agreement and not raising disturbing issues, which I feel are a danger to Lebanon and a mistake. I prefer to wait for the coming hours or two days for the crystallization of the final position. However, a positive opportunity exists.
(Q) The justifications for suspending the membership of the ministers in the government were illogical in the view of some of the ministers, who called for abidance by the Constitution in this respect.
(A) We have not proposed amendments to the Constitution or want to amend it. We are calling for complete abidance by the Constitution and the Al-Taif Agreement. We have never raised this issue at any time. We blame others for talking about abidance by the Constitution and then confront the president in an unconstitutional way with an interpretation that is inconsistent with their practices. They accept his chairing of the Council of Ministers meetings and seek his signature on laws to become effective. In doing so, all the parties are formally recognizing that the president”s function is one hundred percent legal. Otherwise, they should contest all these laws.
(Q) What were the real justifications for your decision?
(A) When we joined the government, we did that based on a political agreement with the principal partners in this government, led by the Al-Mustaqbal Party and the Progressive Socialist Party. The "four-party" coalition, which included these two parties together with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, ran in the parliamentary elections based on a specific political agreement to continue the efforts to defend Lebanon, continue discussing the major issues, continue the investigation in a judicial and objective manner, and continue our joint effort to rebuild the country through genuine partnership. This agreement led to our participation in the government, not because we love ministerial positions, but because we are partners. What we objected to was the violation of the logic of partnership by the other side by overstepping us on basic and fateful issues on many occasions. The latest occasion was the international court issue. The other side should have allowed time for consultation, because we could have reached the required understanding. By suspending our membership, we rejected the logic of majority and minority. When there is a coalition, there is no room for such logic. Anyone who followed the developments could have seen that we were overlooked three times before the last problem. The first was when they raised t he issue of the Palestinian weapons, which almost led to strife with unpredictable results. The second time was when they raised the issue of the border demarcation. The third time was when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivered his speech. We asked for a delay of 24 hours before the cabinet adopted a position, but the others insisted on adopting a position within a few hours. We asked for time because we believed that this is not how we should deal with matters between Lebanon and Syria.
(Q) Why has the issue of the resistance become a government issue?
(A) I will not enter into the details of the discussions. However, as a matter of principle, I say that the resistance is a basic component of the country. In any plans, we must consider the future of the resistance to safeguard the achievements made in Lebanon.
(Q) Have you felt a change in the Lebanese official position on the security situation in the south following the Syrian withdrawal?
(A) There is an international effort to contain the resistance. International parties are trying to push Lebanese parties to do what they have failed to do. However, on the security level in the south, there are no changes.
(Q) Your relationship with the Al-Hariri movement is continuing, despite some differences, but your relationship with Deputy Junblatt is apparently deteriorating. Why?
(A) You should ask Deputy Walid Junblatt about his position. We have changed nothing. We abide by our agreements and commitments. They know that we were completely clear from the beginning on everything we believe in and on what we want. We have abided and will abide by our commitments. You should ask Junblatt about the circumstances that made him adopt some of his positions, because he can explain them better.
(Q) Is there a possibility for dialogue with him?
(A) In principle, dialogue has not stopped. We have no objection to continuing this dialogue. However, no direct dialogue has taken place recently.
(Q) In his statement last Sunday, Deputy Junblatt suggested that some connection existed with regard to the booby-trapped vehicle used in the assassination of Prime Minister Al-Hariri.
(A) My information is that they will replace Investigator (Detlev) Mehlis with a Belgian investigator. I have no knowledge of other investigators coming on the line. We prefer that the investigation continue according to its known channels. We prefer that it continues in a judicial manner and take its objective course supported by sufficient evidence. We have nothing to fear or say, because it is up to others and not to us in terms of condemnation.
(Q) How do you reconcile between your alliance with Syria and your partnership with the Al-Mustaqbal Party and the other government participants? Is there no contradiction?
(A) There are differences in views between our coalition partners in the government and us regarding the attitude toward Syria. This was clear to us all from the beginning. Nevertheless, we believed it was possible to join this coalition without this issue becoming an obstacle. We hoped that through dialogue we could narrow the differences on this issue, particularly as we believe that an understanding between Lebanon and Syria is a basic and essential matter, which Lebanon cannot overlook and no one can prevent. We are joined by geography, the economy, and our political position, because of our problem with Israel. Therefore, we cannot maintain the tension in the relations between the two countries. Syria has withdrawn from Lebanon, and we cannot keep the tension in the relations, because this would be harmful to the two countries.
(Q) Dialogue exists between Hezbollah and the movement of Gen. Michel Awn on the base level and mutual "flirtation" on the summit level. Have you reached the stage of alliance or conviction that would allow you to vote for him in the presidential elections?
(A) The peculiarity of the relationship between Hezbollah and General Awn is that it is growing slowly and gradually on clear basis. There is no intensity in the relationship–unlike what others do: you might find them here at a certain moment and then they move to there. We act toward General Awn the same way he acts toward us, because, like Hezbollah, he is a principle force in shaping Lebanon”s future. The dialogue has made good progress. We can say that the reciprocal statements are an indication of the nature of the progress in this dialogue.
(Q) There are reports about movement in the issue of the exchange of prisoners between Hezbollah and Israel and about German mediation, the first signs of which was the release of Muhammad Ali Hammadi from German prison.
(A) As far as I know, no movement is taking place on this issue. As for the release of Muhammad Ali Hammadi, this matter had something to do with the German authorities and the nature of judicial work there and what Germany thinks would serve its interests. No exchanges are taking place with it.