Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the first time publicly blamed the collapse of his government in January on the leader of the Shiite Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, and its backer, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hariri, speaking in an interview in Paris with Lebanon’s MTV channel, said yesterday that the new government headed by billionaire Prime Minister Najib Mikati is a Hezbollah government. Mikati formed a new government June 13, dominated by a majority from Hezbollah and its allies.
Mikati has asserted his independence from Hezbollah, saying that he isn’t a member of the group and his government will adhere to international obligations to comply with UN resolutions and international law.
Hariri’s national unity government collapsed after 11 ministers from Hezbollah and its allies resigned from the cabinet, amid an investigation by a United Nations tribunal into the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
“The decision to bring down Saad Hariri from the premiership was made by two people, Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” Hariri said in the MTV interview.
Hezbollah wanted Hariri’s government to end Lebanon’s financing of 49 percent of the UN tribunal’s costs. The political rift has threatened a return to sectarian violence in a country that emerged from a 15-year civil war in 1990.
The UN tribunal on June 30 handed Lebanese authorities an indictment in the killing of Rafiq Hariri. Arrest warrants were issued for four people. LBC television and other local media said at least two of them are connected with Hezbollah.
Nasrallah has pledged that Hezbollah won’t hand over anyone from the group. He has repeatedly said the UN court is biased and part of a U.S. and Israeli plot to target it and its backer, Syria.
Lebanon has 30 days to make the arrests, with the aim of transferring the defendants to the court. A trial can be held in absentia if the accused are not arrested.
Hariri said Lebanon “will pay the price” if Hezbollah refuses to turn over members of the group indicted in the assassination.
The United Nations tribunal asked Interpol to issue so- called red notices to alert all states that warrants have been issued for the arrest of the defendants in the case.
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