BEIRUT, (AFP) – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday called on Lebanon’s government to step aside and allow his armed movement to singlehandedly deal with a UN court on the murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
The day is coming when this tribunal and all those who conspired with it will face a scandal bigger than that those that WikiLeaks has unveiled,” Nasrallah told thousands of his supporters via closed-circuit video.
His comments came as tensions rise over the the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is reportedly ready to indict high-ranking Hezbollah operatives in the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others.
The Shiite leader, who commands the most powerful military force in the country, urged the deeply divided government to stay out of his rising offensive against the STL, which he has claimed is a US-Israeli plot.
“Leave this problem to us and the tribunal, for we are able to face up to it alone and defend ourselves,” Nasrallah said one night before a mass procession was scheduled in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburb of Beirut to mark the commemoration of Ashura.
The Iranian- and Syrian-backed group has warned any accusation in the Hariri murder would have grave repercussions in Lebanon and called for an inquiry by the nation’s highest court into what it claims was bogus testimony given to UN investigators.
But Saudi-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier, has vowed to see the investigation through.
Nasrallah accused the government, in which Hezbollah and its allies have veto power over major decisions, of protecting the alleged bogus witnesses.
“The Lebanese government is protecting these false witnesses,” he said, hours after a cabinet session on the issue was adjourned without feuding ministers coming to an agreement on the issue.
“The government this very night was protecting these false witnesses who for four years have been dragging the country into strife.”
Nasrallah also called on his followers to march en masse on Thursday for Ashura, when Shiite worshippers gather to mourn the death of Hussein, a grandson of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.
“Tomorrow is different, exceptional. What we are asking of you is attendance that is different, exceptional, in all areas,” Nasrallah said.
“The world is waiting tomorrow to see your faces … your resolve,” he added. “Tomorrow we meet to tell the world that all Israel’s threats of war cannot underscore our resolve.”
Nasrallah is expected to speak after Thursday’s procession.