Qassem: State Must Address Collaborators Issue, Balance of Power Only Allows Consensual President

Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem reminded Monday that his party had left the issue of Israeli collaborators for the Lebanese state to address, noting that the current “balance of power” in the country does not allow the election of a new president without consensus among the rival parties.

“The resistance has acted honorably during all junctures, including during the liberation when we did not harass anyone and left the issue of collaborators for the Lebanese state to address according to its laws, without any intervention from our side,” Qassem said during a Hizbullah ceremony.

He said the rule in this issue is that “the guilty must be held accountable,” describing the prosecution of former South Lebanon Army members as both “a responsibility and a duty.”

“We worked with all the honest parties for the sake of rebuilding the country and we have the right to say that had it not been for the resistance, there would not have been any construction in the country,” Hizbullah number two noted.

“And had it not been for the 'sacred defense', we would not have been able to repel the threats … and prevent them from destroying all the accomplishments achieved in Lebanon,” Qassem added, referring to Hizbullah's military intervention in neighboring Syria.

Qassem's remarks come in response to recent controversial statements by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who said Friday that the Lebanese state must not deal with those who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals.”

“We are not collaborators. I did not see any Lebanese collaborating against Lebanon,” al-Rahi said after meeting a group of exiled Lebanese during a visit to the Israeli village of Isfiya near Haifa, which came as part of his landmark visit to the Holy Land.

“Had they fought against Lebanon? Had they fought against the Lebanese state? Had they fought against Lebanese institutions?” al-Rahi asked rhetorically.

Israel has invaded Lebanon several times, occupying part of the country's territory for 18 years until it withdrew in 2000 following armed resistance spearheaded by Hizbullah. In 2006, a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.

Separately, Qassem urged an end to political “acrobatics” in the issue of the stalled presidential election, stressing that “everyone knows that the balance of power in Lebanon does not allow the election of a president without consensus.”

“Let us reach an agreement today as that would be better than reaching an agreement ten months or a year from now. It is better not to waste time because the result is the same,” Qassem urged.

Turning to the issue of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Hizbullah official called for “embarking on preparing a fair electoral law based on proportional representation in order to confront the challenge that we will face in less than three months.”

“If you want real changes in this country, let us reproduce authorities, and parliamentary elections are the only way to reproduce authorities,” Qassem suggested.

He stressed that the rival political forces can agree on a “fair” electoral law ahead of the parliamentary elections that are scheduled for the fall of this year, urging swift efforts in this regard.

On Sunday, Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said the country should head to parliamentary polls in order to prevent a protracted presidential vacuum.

“The priority is for the election of a president, but should that not be possible, we must hold parliamentary elections,” said Aoun, who is a member of the bloc led by Free Patriotic Movement chief and presidential hopeful MP Michel Aoun, a key Hizbullah ally.

Parliament had failed to elect a successor to president Michel Suleiman -- whose six-year term ended on May 25 -- despite having held five electoral sessions for that purpose.

Until the moment only Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Democratic Gathering MP Henri Helou have announced official presidential nominations, while Aoun has insisted that he will only run in the race as a “consensual candidate.”

Aoun's demand and the March 8 camp's rejection of Geagea's nomination prompted the Hizbullah-led March 8 forces to boycott four electoral sessions that required a quorum of two thirds of the 128-member legislature.


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