Accessibility links

Breaking News

Hezbollah Under Pressure Says Will Support Reformist Government

A man poses for a picture with a cardboard cut-out of Hassan Nasrallah (L), the head of Lebanon's Hezbollah, and former Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil hung by Lebanese protesters in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020.

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah said Sunday his group will facilitate the formation of a government that would be able to improve economic conditions in the crisis-stricken country and undertake major reforms.

Hassan Nasrallah said his group is also open to calls from France for a new political contract in Lebanon, on condition that all Lebanese sects are on board.

Hezbollah wields a decisive sway in Lebanese politics for the last decade and itself is a sectarian organization representing Shiites.

The speech came on the eve of a meeting by parliamentary blocs deciding to name a new prime minister and ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron’s arrival in Lebanon late Monday. It’s Macron’s second visit to the former French protectorate in less than a month.

Macron has offered French support after the devastating Aug. 4 port explosion in Beirut and has also pressed Lebanese officials to formulate a new political pact to lift the country out of its political stalemates, entrenched corruption and years of mismanagement.

On Friday, Macron spoke of the "constraints of a confessional system" in a country populated by Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shiites.

"If we let Lebanon go in the region and if we somehow leave it in the hands of the depravity of regional powers, it will be civil war," he said.

Hezbollah has come under intense criticism and public scrutiny as the country faces multiple devastating crises. The port explosion killed 190 people and injured over 6,000. Parts of the capital were devastated and the port, a main trade channel for the small country dependent on imports, was badly damaged.

An unprecedented economic crisis had already cost the Lebanese currency more than 80% of its value, driving unemployment, poverty and inflation through the roof.

Corruption among the political elite is the underlying reason for the government’s inefficiency but also U.S. sanctions on Iran have deprived the Hezbollah of its steady financing by Tehran that also brought foreign currency to the country.

Feeling the pressure, Nasrallah promised Hezbollah will cooperate to avoid a political vacuum.

“Whether in naming a prime minister or forming a government, we will be cooperative and facilitate getting the country out of a vacuum,” he said in a speech Sunday. He snubbed criticism that Hezbollah stands in the way of reforms.

“Some hypocrites and liars say that Hezbollah is an obstacle to reforms,” he said. “We support reforms that go as far as possible."

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government, backed by Hezbollah and its allies, resigned on Aug. 10, six days after 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in Beirut’s port where they had been stored for six years.

The country's divided political groups have failed to name a candidate, who according to Lebanon's sectarian-based power sharing system, must be a Sunni Muslim.

Reporting by AP, AFP