Nasrallah Says Hizbullah Seeks Dialogue in 'Settlement Cabinet', Offered Portfolio Concessions for Country's Sake

Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday blamed “those who wanted to eliminate Hizbullah from any government” for the 11-month deadlock in the cabinet formation process, describing the cabinet that was announced Saturday by Prime Minister Tammam Salam as a “settlement cabinet.”

“Every person can evaluate the outcome of the cabinet formation process the way they like, whether it is positive or negative, and we respect all opinions,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech commemorating “Hizbullah's martyr leaders” Sayyed Abbas al-Moussawi, Sheikh Ragheb Harb and military commander Imad Mughniyeh.

“It is normal for people to have divergent evaluations, as each evaluation depends on the perspective through which the issue is being approached,” said Nasrallah, referring to the dismay of some of Hizbullah's allies and supporters over the cabinet line-up, which included fierce critics of the party, such as Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq.

He explained that Hizbullah has always been “with the state and with national partnership.”

“We never said that we reject a cabinet containing any of March 14's components. We never said that we reject the representation of these parties in cabinet and never said that we won't sit with the Mustaqbal Movement or any other party around a dialogue table. We had rather always called for a cabinet of national partnership and unity,” Nasrallah added.

“We are not in any way embarrassed to be in this cabinet,” he pointed out.

Addressing the 11-month impasse in the cabinet formation process, Nasrallah said “it was not portfolio rotation that impeded the formation of the cabinet for 10 months, but rather those who were rejecting the formation of a political cabinet in Lebanon and those who called for eliminating Hizbullah from any cabinet.”

“It was those who called for forming a neutral cabinet,” he said, referring to the March 14 camp.

Nasrallah noted that “those who opened the door for a solution in the cabinet formation process were AMAL (Movement) and Hizbullah,” adding that “had a neutral or de facto cabinet been formed, a problem would have happened in the country.”

“Consultations between AMAL and Hizbullah have produced the cabinet,” he said.

“The political problem was resolved as the rotation and distribution of portfolios lingered, so we offered concessions. We are the ones who offered a lot of sacrifices and did not discuss or care for the issue of portfolios, even in the last hours, because our concern was the formation of a cabinet as the country's interest lied in the formation of a cabinet,” Hizbullah's leader clarified.

He stated that evaluating Hizbullah through the ministerial portfolios it got “is a mistake.”

“The country was facing several choices. We never wanted vacuum at the political, economic and security levels. A de facto, neutral cabinet would have posed a threat, that's why the 'settlement cabinet' was formed. You can call it a cabinet of rivals or a national interest cabinet, but a settlement cabinet is the best description. But this is not an all-embracing cabinet as some forces have not taken part in it,” added Nasrallah.

“This cabinet is a settlement cabinet. We want it to be a cabinet of rapprochement and we will enter it with the intent of launching dialogue, not with the intent of setting up barricades inside it. It should alleviate tensions in the country and lower the intensity of political rhetoric,” Hizbullah's chief went on to say.

He pointed out that the cabinet's “priority” must be holding the presidential and parliamentary elections in a timely manner.

“We hope this cabinet will shoulder the responsibility of confronting terrorism,” Nasrallah said.

“Some allies and people have concerns and fears over the new cabinet. For example, some are saying that it will release (detained Qaida-linked militants) Naim Abbas or Omar al-Atrash,” he added.

“If someone has confessed, no one can release them, whoever the justice minister might be,” Nasrallah reassured.

Hizbullah's leader had started his lengthy speech by reminding of the Israeli threat to Lebanon and the region.

“I remind those who have forgotten in Lebanon that Israel is still an enemy and a threat to Lebanon's people, water, oil, security and sovereignty,” said Nasrallah.

“Over the past weeks, Israel seized the chance and wanted to wage a psychological warfare against the resistance, so we heard several threats, but no one in Lebanon cared, as there are some parties who consider the resistance to be the threat against the country,” Nasrallah lamented.

“The enemy does not scare us and after all these experiences and achievements, it knows that the resistance maintains high readiness despite everything that is happening in Lebanon and Syria. Our assets are ready and are growing and although martyrs from the resistance are falling in Syria, it is capable to confront the Israeli enemy,” he reassured.

Turning to the issue of the recent Saudi donation to the Lebanese Army that aims to buy French weapons for the poorly-equipped military institution, Nasrallah said: “In the past, I had said that we hope to see the day when we will have a Lebanese state that can protect and defend Lebanon so that we can rest. And today I want to reiterate that we hope to see the day when the army becomes the sole force that shoulders the responsibility of defending Lebanon."

"Our concern is defending Lebanon and its sovereignty and dignity. We are with everything that can strengthen the army in terms of equipment, personnel and advanced weapons that can protect Lebanon in the face of Israeli threats," Nasrallah said.

"Days will prove if there is a will in the international community to offer these arms to the army or not. Should this assistance take place, we will thank anyone who offers weapons to the army," he stressed.

Nasrallah devoted much of the drawn-out address to defending Hizbullah's involvement in Syria, vowing that the group would prevail against extremists fighting in neighboring Syria.

"We will win this battle, God willing," he insisted, after describing the group's role in the conflict in Syria as a fight against "takfiris" -- extremist Sunni Muslims.

"It's a question of time," he said of Hizbullah's promised victory in the fight.

"Planning and preparations... exist, but it's a question of time," he added, describing the fight in Syria, which a Britain-based monitoring group estimates has killed several hundred Hizbullah members, as a "decisive, historic battle."

Hizbullah's strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa have been targeted in a string of car and suicide bomb attacks that have killed dozens of civilians, with jihadist groups saying the blasts are revenge for the Shiite movement's role in the Syria conflict.

“Tonight, it is a duty to hail people's patience and their will. We must laud the discipline of these people who have refrained from any retaliation in the wake of these bombings. In this confrontation, we must know that this issue deserves patience and the endurance of repercussions. The martyrs who fell in these bombings are exactly like our youths who are falling martyrs in Syria, as this is the same battle,” said Nasrallah.

Nasrallah said the attacks, and others in Syria against religious minorities, proved that the group needed to fight extremism in Syria to protect Lebanon.

"If the armed groups control Syria, what will Lebanon's future be?" he asked.

"Where are your priests, where are your nuns, where are your statues of the Virgin Mary?" he added, referring to Syrian priests and nuns kidnapped by extremists, who have also desecrated churches.

"This is a danger that threatens all Lebanese... If they (jihadists) have the opportunity to control the border regions, their goal will be to transform Lebanon into a part of their Islamic state," he said.

Nasrallah noted that “claims that withdrawal from Syria would stop the bombings are lies,” referring to arguments by Hizbullah's political rivals in Lebanon and a recent statement by the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which laid out two preconditions for stopping its bomb attacks in Lebanon – Hizbullah's withdrawal from Syria and the release of Islamist inmates from the Roumieh prison.

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