Jumblat Says Won't Pull Out Helou even if Hariri Agrees with Aounإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat has stressed that he will not pull out MP Henri Helou of the presidential race even if an agreement was reached between al-Mustaqbal movement leader MP Saad Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun.
“I'm not one of those who wait for external factors. I won't pull out Henri Helou even if Hariri reaches an agreement with Aoun,” Jumblat said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Helou had garnered 16 votes during the first electoral session that was held on April 23 while 48 votes were given to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. The country was plunged into a presidential vacuum on May 25 after a boycott of voting sessions by most of the March 8 forces prevented the election of a successor to former president Michel Suleiman.
“We in the Democratic Gathering bloc will not accept a settlement at the expense of Henri Helou … We will cast our votes and we either win or lose,” Jumblat added.
“We do realize that the external factor is essential, but if we keep awaiting the so-called Iranian-Saudi dialogue or the Iranian-American settlement, the issue might take a long time,” Jumblat said.
Separately, the PSP leader said the decision by Hizbullah to join the civil war in neighboring Syria and fight along President Bashar Assad's forces was a historic and moral "mistake" toward the Syrian people.
The harsh criticism by Jumblat, who leads Lebanon's minority Druze sect, reflects his increasing pessimism about the bloody conflict next door, now in its fourth year.
Although he leads a minority sect, the MP is a pillar and a mainstay in Lebanese politics and is often referred to as the country's "kingmaker" because of his small bloc's track record of tipping the balance during key votes in parliament.
"Hizbullah intervened in Syria and did not care about the Lebanese (public) opinion," Jumblat told the AP during a recent interview at his home in Beirut. "This is a historical and moral mistake toward the Syrian people."
Hizbullah's fighters openly entered the fight in Syria in May 2013 and were instrumental in helping Assad's troops push back rebels and re-capture strategic towns and rebel strongholds along the border with Lebanon and near Syria's capital, Damascus.
This turned the tide in the conflict, giving Assad's forces the upper hand against the rebels seeking to overthrow the Syrian leader, who last week won a third seven-year term in a presidential election derided as a farce by the opposition.
Now, the Syrian civil war will be "very long," Jumblat said. Instead of fighting in Syria, he said Hizbullah should have focused on archenemy Israel.
"I say that the guns should be directed toward the Israeli enemy," he added.
Jumblat — whose Druze are like Assad's Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam — has been known for his shifting loyalties. His history with Hizbullah has been both complex and full of U-turns.
After the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Jumblat sharply criticized Hizbullah and the Syrian government, which many in Lebanon blamed for the killing. Damascus denies it was behind Hariri's slaying.
In May 2008, tensions between Jumblat's followers and allies on one side and Hizbullah on the other erupted into street fighting in Beirut and nearby mountains, killing 81 people and nearly plunging Lebanon into another civil war.
In 2009, Jumblat reconciled with the Hizbullah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who the following year personally mediated a meeting between the Druze politician and Assad. That meeting was a sharp turn for Jumblat, who only three years earlier had called the Syrian president a "snake" and a "tyrant."
Then, after his last visit to Damascus in June 2011, Jumblat again broke with Assad.
"We are still at the beginning of the war in Syria. In the long term, the map of the Middle East will be redrawn," he told the AP.
"The main winner is the Islamic Republic," he said referring to Iran, which is one of Assad's strongest allies.
The Syrian conflict, which has so far killed more than 160,000 people, a third of whom were civilians, has sharply divided the Lebanese, and violence has often spilled into the tiny Arab country, killing and wounding hundreds here.
Many Lebanese Shiites back Assad, while Lebanon's Sunnis back the mostly Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow him. Jumblat has repeatedly urged his countrymen not to get involved in the Syrian conflict.
But from the topic of war, the Druze politician is quick to turn to lighter subjects when prompted.
Asked about actor George Clooney's engagement to 36-year-old Lebanese-British international law attorney Amal Alamuddin — who like Jumblat happens to be a Druze — he smiled and said he hoped the couple would soon visit the Druze heartland.
Jumblat said he would be happy to welcome Clooney in his palatial mansion in the Druze village of Moukhtara, high in the mountains over Beirut.
Clooney will bring us "great publicity," Jumblat said. "He can make a movie about the Druze sect."