BEIRUT, (AP) – A Western-backed alliance in Lebanon’s government accused the militant group Hezbollah and its allies Wednesday of trying to take the country back to the days when Syria dominated this tiny Arab nation.
The alliance is struggling to maintain its political clout as Hezbollah and its patrons in Damascus gain strength in Lebanon. The March 14 coalition is named for a day of massive demonstrations in 2005 when millions turned out and forced Syria leave Lebanon after nearly 30 years.
“Lebanon is being subjected at the present time to a wild coup attempt that aims to take us back to the time before the March 14, 2005 independence uprising,” Fares Soeid, a senior March 14 official, told reporters Wednesday.
Hezbollah and the March 14 coalition are uneasy partners in Lebanon’s unity government.
The comments come at a fractious time for the country, largely because of an ongoing investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, that his son, the current prime minister, once laid at the feet of Syria.
But in a stunning reversal earlier this month, Hariri said it was a mistake to blame Damascus for his father’s death.
Although officials have not said it openly, analysts say the rapprochement appears to be an acknowledgment that Hariri is too weak to govern Lebanon without Syrian support.
Hezbollah, for its part, has steadily gained influence in the past few years, not the least because it is strongest military force in the country, and now has a virtual veto power over government decisions.
Two Hezbollah officials declined to comment on the March 14 remarks when contacted by The Associated Press, saying they had yet to read the full statement.