Berri Says Hizbullah-Amal Succeeded because Part of Social Fabric, Warns Against 2010 Budget Standstill

Speaker Nabih Berri snapped back at critics of the Hizbullah-Amal alliance who have accused "the Shiite couple" of launching war on families in last Sunday's municipal elections in the south and Nabatiyeh.

"Don't our candidates come from families?" Berri asked An Nahar newspaper.

Southerners "have raced to serve development … and improve their conditions no matter which family represented them," he said.

Amal and Hizbullah are part of the social "fabric" in southern Lebanon, the speaker told the daily, saying that attempts to engage in a battle against the two parties' candidates under the pretext of family considerations did not succeed.

Although Berri lauded Interior Minister Ziad Baroud's handling of the elections, he said it would have been better if they were held in a few days rather than consuming an entire month.

Turning to the issue of the 2010 state budget, the Amal leader stressed "the need to speed up the referral of the budget to parliament."

He also urged cabinet to work harder "because the Lebanese are expecting from them a lot."

He said he was afraid that agreement on budget would reach a standstill "and face the same fate of the municipal elections law," Berri told An Nahar.

Asked about what stance Lebanon would make at the U.N. Security Council in case of the adoption of a draft resolution on new sanctions on Iran, Berri said: "Lebanon should not only abstain from voting on the sanctions on Iran, it should strongly object this matter."

He wondered why Tehran shouldn't own nuclear weapons as long as the Israeli nuclear arsenal threatens Lebanon and the region.

"All Arab and Islamic states should own nuclear weapons since Israel owns this type of arms and nothing has been done to disarm it," Berri added.

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