BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon’s embattled caretaker premier Saad Hariri said Thursday he will stand for a new term and vowed not to buckle to Hezbollah, as foreign efforts to mediate the country’s political crisis failed.
“A constitutional process is under way and we will accept its results despite intimidation on the street and elsewhere,” Hariri said in a televised address to the nation.
“We will go to the parliamentary consultations organised by the president on Monday and I remain committed as a candidate, in line with my parliamentary bloc’s decision,” he added to applause from party members.
Hariri accused the powerful Shiite party Hezbollah, which brought down his government last week, of seeking his political demise and of rejecting any compromise to break the current impasse that has plunged the country into a deep crisis.
The standoff between Hariri’s camp and Hezbollah is linked to a dispute over a UN-backed probe into the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former premier Rafik Hariri.
Turkey and Qatar abandoned on Thursday efforts to break the deadlock, a day after Saudi Arabia also threw in the towel, raising fears of an escalation.
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar, Ahmet Davutoglu and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jaber al-Thani, said after two days of intensive talks that they were suspending negotiations because of “reservations” over a draft agreement they had submitted.
“(Our) efforts resulted in a working draft that takes into account political and legal demands to resolve the current crisis in Lebanon based on the Syrian-Saudi initiative,” they said in a statement.
“But given certain reservations, (we) decided to suspend efforts in Lebanon for the time being and to leave Beirut in order to consult with (our) leadership,” added the statement, which did not elaborate.
The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, travelled to Damascus on Thursday to discuss the crisis with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the official news agency SANA reported.
The Syrian-Saudi initiative on the Lebanese crisis calls, in part, for Lebanon to disavow the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probing Hariri’s murder, according to political officials.
In exchange, Hezbollah would provide guarantees concerning its weapons arsenal and other issues.
Hariri said the Qatari and Turkish mediation efforts had failed because of Hezbollah’s insistence to prevent his return as premier.
“They (Hezbollah) put aside all other solutions… and demanded only that Saad Hariri be prevented from once again becoming premier,” he said.
He warned Lebanon stood at a decisive juncture which could plunge the country into an abyss and vowed his camp would not impose its agenda through violence.
“We will not resort to the streets because from the onset we have chosen state institutions,” he said.
“One single drop of Lebanese blood is worth more to me than all power,” he added.
The standoff between Hariri’s camp and Hezbollah deepened this week after the prosecutor of the STL submitted a sealed indictment in the Hariri case, which is now being reviewed by a judge.
Hezbollah has said it expects party members to be implicated by the tribunal, which it accuses of being part of a US-Israeli plot.
Fears of street violence soared on Tuesday after dozens of black-clad unarmed Hezbollah supporters gathered in several neighbourhoods of west Beirut, prompting schools to shut down and the army to deploy in those areas.
Consultations on forming a new government are scheduled to begin on Monday but experts and politicians have predicted a protracted crisis that could lead to similar violence as that in May 2008, which brought the country close to a new civil war.