Here's a Thanksgiving treat that will be new to you unless you're reading this from Beirut. We were able to obtain the full translated remarks of the November 19 speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah about accusations of the majority bloc against his terror group. This of course was a precursor to the assassination earlier this week of the anti-Syrian MP Pierre Gemayel.
Just three weeks ago, the White House released a prophetic warning about outside forces aiming to overthrow the government. As we noted on Wednesday, should two more cabinet members be killed, the Siniora government will collapse and Hezbollah will be poised for a takeover.
HASSAN NASRALLAH: If we begin by agreeing on the principles of forming a government of national unity, and if there is a problem with the number of the ministers who will serve in this government, I will ask that you tell everyone sitting at the roundtable of national dialogue that we are ready to pull out all Hezbollah ministers from this government, for the purpose of making place for the participation of some other political groups in the government. You can also tell everyone sitting at the roundtable of national dialogue that we are ready to grant full confidence to this new government and to give it our support from the outside.
Anyone who thinks this way cannot be looking for a share or a position of authority or a veto. There are basic matters that we must protect in Lebanon. The existence of all different political groups in this government is one of these basic matters of national guarantee. We are ready to give up our seats in this government in order to make place for the participation of these other political groups - if there is a need for that - because we are merely concerned about the consequences of such moves. We are not so concerned about Hezbollah actually sitting in this government of national unity, as long as it is established.
So we say that this accusation is truly unfounded. It has no real basis. This should be very clear.
If I had to respond to each of these accusations, I would have to say that this one is silly, the other one is strange, the third is ridiculous, and so on. I do wish to make fun of all these people who claim that our purpose in creating the current political confrontation is to do service to the Iranian nuclear program. This is very stupid. It is like claiming that changing the prime minister of the Lebanese Republic will guarantee that the Iranian nuclear project will not be stopped and that keeping the current prime minister can be detrimental to the Iranian nuclear program. This is absolutely naive.
The Iranian nuclear program is being dealt with by the greatest powers in this world. It has many regional and international implications. Lebanon, as a state, has no real role to play amidst this international crisis - not the government of Mr. Siniora, not the governing majority. Not even the government of national unity has anything to do with this international dilemma. None of the political movements or the various political groups calling for or opposing the creation of the government of national unity or any other political party in Lebanon have anything to say about this matter. This is akin to saying that the political maneuvering in Lebanon has something to do with the ozone problem.
The next point is frivolous, strange and laughable. I told you before that there is a common denominator to all of these accusations. Now I will tell you why.
According to the American administration's theory, the real purpose of the current political maneuvers in Lebanon is to stem the tide of the Shiite crescent, which according to the American administration, encompasses Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The American administration later retracted these statements. At any rate, I consider all of this to be ridiculous, and I really do not want to spend too much time on it because I have talked about it on many an occasion before.
I want to reiterate that when we demand the inclusion of the Free National Trend party into the government, this has nothing to do with foreign political considerations. When we demand the inclusion of the Free National Alliance in the government - an alliance representing a variety of political factions and no Shiite representation - this demand has nothing to do with any Shiite concerns. By this demand, I am only asking that all various political factions in Lebanon - including secular, patriotic, communist, socialist, leftist and Nasserite parties - be part of the proposed government of national unity.
I challenge anyone to come up with any relation between this demand and the so called 'Shiite crescent' conspiracy.
We are also asking for other Sunni Muslim groups that have previously played major roles in the Lebanese arena, to participate in the proposed government of national unity. This includes some former presidents and prime ministers who still enjoy a lot of public and national support. This of course has nothing to do with the so called Shiite crescent conspiracy. But I believe that the talk about the Shiite crescent conspiracy is intentional, and I will explain this point in more detail in the next few minutes.
The last topic that I want to address in this category of accusations is the allegation that the purpose of the political maneuvers in Lebanon is to hamper the work of the international tribunal (investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri).
During the last war, and after our victory celebration, the international tribunal was never on the national agenda. Everyone then was anticipating the results of the consultations between the Lebanese government and the Security Council. This issue was still not on the political agenda when during the month of Ramadan we asked for a government of national unity. Until our speech on September 22nd, no one was talking about this international tribunal.
We said that the month of Ramadan would give everyone a chance to think deeply about the national issues. Immediately after the month of Ramadan, Mr. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, called for convening a national consultation roundtable in an attempt to discuss the situation in this country and to devise suitable solutions.
They, the other groups, are the ones who asked their international friends to speed up the work of the international tribunal. They wanted to bring the draft of the international tribunal report to the national consultation roundtable. The objective is to destroy any chances of success during this national consultation roundtable and to avoid any discussion of the new realities and the political balance resulting from the last war in Lebanon. Here, I am referring to the right to form a government of national unity.
The real purpose of the national consultation conference is to discuss the need for the creation of a government of national unity and new elections legislation.
Even when the leaders of the majority bloc asked for an addition to this agenda, they did not ask for the inclusion of the international tribunal report. Instead, they wanted to put the question of changing the presidency on the discussion table.
The question of the international tribunal was never presented in the agenda of the national consultation conference. This subject was initially brought before the national dialogue roundtable, which decided at that time that this subject should be left to the Lebanese government, which was asked to follow up on this subject with all the concerned international organizations, including the United Nations. This subject was over then. They wanted to hasten the conclusion of this report so that it could be presented at this national consultations roundtable for the above mentioned reasons.
What happened on Thursday, Friday and Saturday immediately after the end of this national consultations roundtable? We entered a new phase. Here, there are a few details that must be told to the people of Lebanon. I will address this point now, although I think that it will probably be more beneficial that I talk about it in the next section of my speech.
What happened is exactly as follows - on the above mentioned Thursday, one of the major leaders of the current government - and I do not want to mention any specific names now - stepped in and asked Mr. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, for a deal. He wanted Mr. Berri to grant him an opportunity to bring the international tribunal report to this national consultations roundtable in exchange for giving Mr. Berri's group more than a one- third opposition bloc in the new government. He was willing to grant Mr. Berri more than he was asking for, in exchange for agreeing to put the draft of the international tribunal report at the national consultations roundtable.
We responded by - or more precisely - he was told at that time and was told again later that night that if he was taking about discussing the international tribunal in principle, this subject was debated and agreed on during the national dialogue roundtable some time ago. Consequently, there was no need to bring it back to this roundtable. But if you are talking about the principle, then we agreed to it at the national dialogue roundtable.
When a draft comes to the parliament, the ministers of Amal and Hezbollah promise that they will discuss the matter seriously and objectively. If you do not find this speech by the Hezbollah representatives useful, then we are willing to hold a meeting and have you hear this directly from me. That's all.
We are demanding our right to a national unity government. This is a just Lebanese, constitutional, political, moral and democratic demand. This is a way to save the country. We are not trying to create a problem.
On Friday there was a draft, even though it was supposed to come in one or two months. They rushed things to get the draft. They gave it to us on Friday. It was not translated. It was not shown to lawmakers. We wanted at least to discuss it with Amal to give our opinion on it. We were surprised to know on Saturday that it had been added to the Monday schedule, to be discussed in a special committee meeting.
This means that they do not want us to find an objective solution, or to have legal guarantees of the draft. They want to bring us on Monday or Thursday, or whenever they want, and say 'this is the draft, you either agree to it or not'. If we discuss it, then we reject the international tribunal.
We accepted the draft. We took it on Friday. Give us a few days! They put it on the Monday schedule and they wanted us to come and vote, and give our approval, and there was no time for discussion. There was no schedule for discussions. If we went to the meeting on Monday and had a discussion for 10 hours and then voted, then the whole discussion would have had no meaning.
Despite all of that, we did not resign from the government because of this incident. What happened is that we were discussing how to be positive and cooperative on the issue of the international tribunal, while these groups tell us that on Saturday they will be willing to have a national unity government. There were sides in the authority that were willing to discuss the national unity government, and there are sides that wanted to discuss the national unity government in the international tribunal.
But on Friday night (--inaudible--) do not argue with them about anything. Who said we wanted to discuss anything? Who said that we wanted to bring the presidential elections forward? Who said that we would discuss the national unity government in the international tribunal?
The national unity government is a right, and the international tribunal is a different demand that we accepted, and now we are saying that we are willing to cooperate. (--Inaudible--) I want to tell you this so that the people will know these facts. The instructions came from the American embassy in Beirut. Yes, exactly. This is no secret and we have information from more than one source.
The American policy did not change, despite what happened in the elections. Do not listen to what is said about connections in the region. We are with you and we will ask you not to give up at all.
Saturday came, and someone said that there were immoral dealings. Yes, they were immoral, but we are not the ones who started it. They did.
Unfortunately, those who suggested the immoral dealings denied it later. Here, you find the political level that we are dealing with.
Ultimately, we are standing with a political partner in the authority that we can sit with for 10 or 20 hours and have national dialogue roundtable discussions and negotiations with. The problem is that we are discussing sincerely, but we are dealing with people who do not make their own decisions.
This is the new political dilemma today, and it is unfortunate that this is the atmosphere in the state of leadership and liberty. When it was said on Saturday - and this was published in the newspapers - we are the majority and we are interested in making the large political decisions, we do not want to form a national unity government that has an element that slows it down and makes it defective.
They are saying they do not want us to be their partners. We are not entering the government in order to be partners with them, not in the jobs, nor in the administration. They know that we do not want to participate in these issues.
We are in the government in order to be partners in the large political decisions of the country. We are demanding other political forces to be part of the large political issues that are related to finance, security, building the institutions, the elections, preserving democracy, and not turning it into a dictatorship, protecting the national principles and building them.
They honestly said they do not want to. They said if we want to be with them in the government as it is, then we are welcome. Even the National Liberal Party - we do not have a problem if they want to join the government, but forces that are not part of the February 14th, which is the main government party, should be given serious and active participation. That is why our natural choice was to resign.
This is the reason for the resignation. The issue has nothing to do with the international tribunal. I tell them now - form a national unity government and try us. Bring the draft of the national unity government, bring the draft of the international tribunal to the national unity government and try us. If we put any obstacles in your way, then you can tell the people of Lebanon.
If we do that, then they are the majority in the parliament and the government will fall whenever they want it to.
This is a group of accusations that usually -- now we see that these issues are being concentrated on in the media. These are all false, unjust, lying and untrue accusations. What is the goal of these accusations and what is common to all of them? Here, I would like to talk a bit about -- I will not go too much into detail, because the situation in the country is sensitive and cannot handle any threats. The authority these days is weak and living in an illusion. Of course, they feel terribly defeated.