BEIRUT, (AFP) — The leader of Hezbollah, whose withdrawal from Lebanon’s cabinet prompted its collapse, is to address the country Sunday on its latest crisis, as rival factions begin jockeying to form a new government.
Announcement of the televised address came as sources close to the powerful Shiite party indicated that it would not accept Prime Minister Saad Hariri returning to power.
And it came as Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, seen as a possible deal-maker, was in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon’s former powerbroker, for talks with President Bashar al-Assad.
“The secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, will make an appearance on Sunday at 8:30 pm (1830 GMT) … to comment on the latest developments,” Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television said.
Hariri’s government collapsed on Wednesday after the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies resigned in a dispute over a UN-backed probe into the 2005 murder of the prime minister’s father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
The Western-backed Hariri had been in the United States on Wednesday for talks on the political problems at home when Hezbollah and allied ministers announced they were pulling out of the cabinet.
He returned to Lebanon on Friday after a trip that also took him to France and Turkey, saying the collapse of his cabinet was “unprecedented in the history of Lebanese governments.”
He vowed to fully cooperate in forming a new government amid international efforts to contain a political storm sparked by the toppling of his cabinet.
After meeting President Michel Sleiman, he said “my allies and I will participate in consultations (to name a new premier) and will fully cooperate with the president to form a new government in line with the requirements to maintain national unity.”
Sleiman, who asked Hariri to stay on in a caretaker capacity, is to begin consultations with MPs on appointing a new premier on Monday.
Under complicated power-sharing arrangements in multi-confessional Lebanon, the prime minister is always a Sunni Muslim.
On Saturday, Al-Akhbar, a newspaper close to Hezbollah, quoted “opposition sources” as saying they “insist on their rejection of Saad Hariri returning as head of government.”
Hezbollah has already made it known that it wants someone known for its support of the “resistance,” a code word for the Shiite party.
And Al-Akhbar raised the name of Omar Karameh, who was prime minister at the time of Rafiq Hariri’s assassination and resigned shortly afterwards.
For its part, the parliamentary majority headed by Hariri has ruled out any other candidate than him.
Hezbollah has been pressuring Hariri for months to reject the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is reportedly poised to indict high-ranking members of the party in the Hariri assassination.
The Shiite group has warned of grave repercussions should it be accused of the murder.
Although he did not specifically refer to the tribunal, Hariri made clear he would not cave in to pressure to reject the court.
He accused Hezbollah of refusing to make concessions while pressing him to “make personal and national sacrifices.”
Hariri said his consultations abroad were aimed at “protecting Lebanon from sliding into the unknown.”
“Some took advantage of the situation to … put an end to the political truce” brokered by Saudi Arabia and Syria, he said, adding dialogue was the only way out of the current impasse.
“No one party in Lebanon can rule on its own,” he said.
Jumblatt, whose parliamentary bloc will be the first to meet with Sleiman, controls 11 seats in parliament that could make or break the next government.
He has been allied with Hariri but moved closer to Hezbollah in 2009.
In Damascus, Jumblatt and Assad stressed the “importance of staying aware of the risks foreign interventions carry in the region and that the region’s inhabitants be the ones to make decisions and reach solutions,” state news agency Sana reported.