BEIRUT, (AP) – The leader of the militant group Hezbollah will make his first public comments Sunday since ministers allied to his Shiite movement brought down the Lebanese government last week.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah’s speech, to be broadcast nationally, is an important sign of his movement’s mindset at a time when many fear the country’s political tension could descend into civil strife.
The crisis in Lebanon is the climax of long-simmering tensions over the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The tribunal is widely expected to indict members of Hezbollah soon, which many fear could rekindle violence in the tiny nation plagued for decades by war and civil unrest. Hezbollah denounces the Netherlands-based tribunal as a conspiracy by the U.S. and Israel and has demanded the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri — the son of the slain leader — reject the court’s findings even before they come out.
But Hariri has refused to break cooperation with the tribunal, prompting Hezbollah to topple his government on Wednesday. He is now heading the government as a caretaker prime minister.
Since his ouster, Hariri has tried to rally international support in the U.S., France and Turkey.
The leaders of Turkey, Qatar and Syria will meet in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Monday to discuss the political crisis, Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported.
Lengthy negotiations lie ahead between Lebanon’s Western-backed blocs and the Hezbollah led-alliance. If those fail, Lebanon could see a resurgence of the street protests and violence that have bedeviled the country in the past.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, is Lebanon’s most potent military force.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will launch formal talks Monday on creating a new government, polling lawmakers on their choice before nominating a prime minister. According to Lebanon’s constitution, the president must be a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite.
Each faith makes up about a third of Lebanon’s population of 4 million.