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Lebanon’s Hariri says ready to form gov’t with Hizbollah

By AFP - Jan 21,2014 - Last updated at Jan 21,2014

BEIRUT — Ex-premier Saad Hariri has said his bloc is prepared to form a government with Hizbollah to resolve Lebanon’s months-long political deadlock, although they back opposite sides in the Syrian conflict.

The shift by Hariri, who heads a so-called March 14 coalition, comes despite a Beirut car bombing last month that killed a Hariri adviser, Mohammad Chatah, that his bloc blamed on Syrian-backed Shiite movement Hizbollah.

Hariri, in an interview with his Future TV broadcast late on Monday, also stressed that Hizbollah ministers in any future government he heads must not have veto powers.

For nine months, since the resignation of prime minister Najib Mikati, Lebanon has been in political paralysis, with March 14 on one hand and Hizbollah and its allies on the other unable to agree on the formation of a new government.

Chatah’s was the latest in a string of high-profile assassinations in Lebanon of anti-Damascus politicians that began in 2005, with the killing of Saad Hariri’s father, Rafiq Hariri, another former premier.

“We have been targeted with assassinations for nine years, and we have waited and waited. But will we wait for the country to burn down?” Hariri told Future TV.

“I have made this decision [to accept forming a government with Hizbollah] for the sake of Lebanon’s interests, rather than my own,” Hariri added.

But, he said, “I will not accept [that Hizbollah hold] the veto-wielding third” of positions in a future Cabinet.

Hariri also stressed he would not allow a future government to provide cover for Hizbollah’s role in the war in neighbouring Syria, and that he would insist Lebanon remain neutral.

“Yes, I am marching with the Syrian revolution... but the difference between me and others is that I am marching politically. I am not sending thousands of soldiers, or bringing back their bodies to Lebanon,” said Hariri.

He was referring to the thousands of fighters which Hizbollah has sent into neighbouring Syria to fight alongside regime troops against the mostly Sunni rebel forces.

Hariri, a Sunni leader, called on his Christian ally Samir Geagea to follow his example and also reconsider his opposition to forming a government with Hizbollah.

“We have explained to everyone why we are taking this step,” said Hariri, who added he hoped Geagea would “rethink this question”.

Hariri, exiled in France since 2011, has said he will return to Lebanon for legislative elections scheduled for November.

Syria dominated Lebanon politically and militarily for 30 years until 2005, when an international outcry over Rafic Hariri’s killing forced Damascus to withdraw its troops.

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