BEIRUT (AFP) – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has heaped scorn on the Lebanese premier for receiving British Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying the move was aimed at provoking and humiliating his Shiite militant group.
Nasrallah, speaking in an interview on Al-Jazeera television late Tuesday, said Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and his political allies had shown little regard for his group and those who died during the Israel-Hezbollah war by agreeing to meet with Blair.
“The first mistake committed by the prime minister and the political forces that are with him is that they behaved in an unethical and inhuman way toward the feelings of the people who were killed, destroyed and displaced,” Nasrallah told the Qatar-based Arab news channel.
The head of the Shiite militant movement added that Blair had been a “partner in the killing” of more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, during the month-long Israeli onslaught against Hezbollah.
Blair briefly visited Beirut on Monday and was met with a storm of protest by the Shiite community angered by his stand, seen as favouring Israel during the conflict.
Nasrallah said there was a deliberate attempt to “humiliate, harm, stab and provoke” Hezbollah and its power base.
“If Tony Blair was invited to visit Lebanon, this is a national disaster,” the Hezbollah chief added. “If he asked to come to Lebanon — because I’m not sure yet — and his request was granted, it is a national humiliation and irresponsible behavior.”
His comments came on the heels of similar criticism on Monday by a Hezbollah MP who called on the government to resign and defiantly vowed that the group would not surrender its weapons.
The MP, Ali Ammar, told a rally in a suburb of Beirut devastated by Israeli air raids that the anti-Syrian coalition that leads the government had “aligned themselves with the Israeli enemy from the start” of the conflict that ended on August 14.
Ammar called for the formation of a government of national unity embracing factions outside the current cabinet, including Christian Michel Aoun, a longtime Syrian opponent now in alliance with Hezbollah, and pro-Syrian Christian notables like former MP Suleiman Franjieh.
Hezbollah itself forms part of the government, holding two of the 24 cabinet posts.
The rally Monday was the first in Beirut by the group since the end of the Israeli offensive launched after Hezbollah captured two soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid on July 12.
Members of the anti-Syrian coalition slammed Ammar’s comments and called for a return to reason.
“The government is working to save Lebanon from the tragedy it has experienced,” Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said, while MP Akram Shehayeb urged “the rebels to return to reason and reality.
The pro-government newspaper Al-Mostaqbal for its part accused Hezbollah of doing Iran and Syria’s work in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, widely considered to be a proxy militia of Iran, has refused to surrender its weapons as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which paved the way for the ceasefire in Lebanon.
Hezbollah has vowed support for Resolution 1701, but hedged it by saying it will not disarm until Israel ends its occupation of all Lebanese territory.
Israel forces have been progressively withdrawing from areas they occupied during the July-August war, to be replaced by Lebanese and UNIFIL troops. That pullout should be completed in the coming days.
UNIFIL announced Tuesday morning that Israel was pulling out of the town of Maibib, ending its presence in the eastern sector of the border area.
In other developments, 13 French Leclerc battle tanks and a dozen armored vehicles arrived in Beirut as France builds up the forces it is contributing to UNIFIL. France plans to contribute around 2,000 troops to UNIFIL, out of a total force of some 15,000.
On Wednesday, just under 600 Spanish marines and soldiers are expected to disembark in the south as part of their country’s contribution to the force of 1,100 troops.
Separately, the Spanish and Luxembourg foreign ministers, Miguel Angel Moratinos and Jean Asselborn, and Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi visited Lebanon for talks on the situation here.