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Hariri: Hezbollah puts us at risk.

Summary: Former Prime Minister Sd Hariri warned Friday Hezbollah was endangering Lebanon by fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in Syria.

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Sd Hariri warned Friday Hezbollah was endangering Lebanon by fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in Syria, urging the party to hand over its arms and back the formation of a neutral Cabinet in Lebanon.

"Hezbollah has taken the decision to enter Syria militarily and fight alongside regime forces, under the assumption that the regime will remain forever," Hariri said in a televised speech aired during a number of Future Movement-organized iftars around the country.

"What will the party tell the families of the victims who were killed by the dozens in Syria [if Assad falls]? ... Hezbollah has taken a step into the unknown," he added.

Hariri said Hezbollah's involvement in Syria disregarded the interests of Lebanon as a whole, but particularly the people of south Lebanon, the Bek Valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut, all strongholds of the resistance group.

The Future Movement leader said Hezbollah had turned its weapons on the Syrian people instead of the group's avowed enemy, Israel.

Hariri argued that the Lebanese state could not co-exist with Hezbollah's arms.

"Lebanon will not live, and will not have the elements of safety in a forest of weapons expanding at the expense of the state ... amid reckless policies that drag the country in foreign wars," said Hariri, who accused Hezbollah of carrying out an Iranian plan to prevent the fall of Assad.

Hariri, outside Lebanon for almost three years due to security reasons, also said the presence of illegitimate weapons had led to the crippling of the state, alongside the postponement of parliamentary polls, repeated failures to convene Parliament, and an inability to form the next Cabinet.

"They [Hezbollah] even want [the state] to be incapable of electing a president nine months from now," he added.

The former prime minister urged Hezbollah and its allies in the March 8 camp to help form a new government.

"Whoever wants to help form a government should cooperate with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and allow the formation of an executive authority that manages the affairs of the country and helps open a breach in the deadlock," he added.

Hariri said both the March 14 camp and its rivals should make a "sacrifice for the Lebanese -- for their daily bread, electricity, communications, employment, food and security" -- by not participating in the next Cabinet.

During the speech, Hariri also dismissed a recent announcement by Hezbollah to resume National Dialogue but said his party was nonetheless ready to take part in the talks in order to address the thorny issue of the resistance group's arms.

President Michel Sleiman has called for the resumption of National Dialogue to discuss his own national defense strategy, which suggested Hezbollah's weapons be placed under the full command of the Lebanese Army.

Hariri questioned the motive behind Nasrallah's readiness to discuss a defense strategy, saying the resistance group could be seeking a cover for its involvement in the war next door.

"I'm not sure whether the purpose of a defense strategy is to face the Israeli enemy or the Syrian people," Hariri said, adding that Hezbollah's readiness for National Dialogue was "mere talk for local consumption."

"Despite all of that, this is an occasion to affirm our commitment to the logic of dialogue as an indispensable means to limit sectarian tensions because we have never carried arms," Hariri said.

Hariri also said that Hezbollah's logic of resistance against Israel was no longer valid, particularly after the party turned its weapons into tools of pressure and intimidation in Lebanon's political life and its involvement in Syria.

The group's arsenal, he added, had also contributed to the proliferation of arms in Lebanon. He reiterated his party's position that only the Lebanese state should enjoy a monopoly over arms and make decisions regarding war and peace.

Copyright 2013, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 3, 2013
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