|The News Line: Feature
Thursday, 22 February 2007
BIRRI REJECTS PARTITIONING OF LEBANON – warns of civil disobedience
Lebanese parliament speaker, Nabih Birri, has asserted that there is no solution to the current crisis in the country – without at least giving the opposition a ‘guaranteed third’ in the government.
Birri urged the majority group in the Lebanese government to say plainly if it rejects the 19 ministers for the majority and 11 for the opposition formula.
Birri said he was continuing his efforts to find ways out of the current crisis, but refused to set ‘final timetables for the solution’.
He reiterated that ‘there are no solutions for the crisis outside the 19 ministers for the majority and 11 for the opposition formula’.
He warned: ‘If there are reports that the majority rejects this formula, then let them tell me and I will cease any effort because this formula is the least that the opposition might accept.
‘I told them that I would prevail on the opposition concerning the demand for early parliamentary elections, and said I would leave it to the deputies.
‘This means that I left the decision on it to the majority inside parliament.’
Challenging the current leaders of the Lebanese government, Birri asked: ‘If they refuse to give the opposition the guaranteed third, then where are the bold decisions they are talking about?’
In reply to a question on whether the return to ‘streets war’ is the alternative to the failure of the current dialogue, Birri said: ‘Fortunately for them, they know that our decision is to avoid the street and that it is forbidden to use weapons inside.’
He added: ‘There are many escalatory steps and I use the brakes quite a lot, as I did before and will do later.
‘I do not know, however, for how long I can succeed under the mutual intransigence.’
Birri disclosed that the opposition was thinking seriously of resorting to civil disobedience.
He considered the likelihood of civil disobedience uniting the Lebanese people great, in view of the financial and economic situation in the country.
The idea of the people refraining from paying taxes might not be bad for many who are not supporters of the opposition, he said.
When told that the state would collapse, he said: ‘This is the ruling group’s responsibility.’
Birri underlined his rejection of sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shias and the need to act to avoid any form of sectarian strife.
He said that had it not been for him and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, Lebanon would now be embroiled in a big internal conflict.
He pointed out that ‘there is here much social intercourse and inter-marriages’.
Birri ridiculed the idea of partitioning Lebanon.
The demographic interconnections between the communities made partition impossible, he said.
He said that no one could ‘close the road’ before the sons of the south, stressing that ‘the road would be opened in one way or another if it was closed.’
Speaker Birri reproached Prime Minister Fuad al-Siniora and voiced ‘many observations’ about him.
He reproached Siniora for causing the current problem in the first place, because Siniora refused to wait three days to examine the international tribunal plan and insisted on holding a cabinet meeting, without allowing the opposition to examine the plan first.
Birri stressed the possibility of reaching agreement on the international tribunal issue, expressing surprise at the insistence on using the plan as a means ‘to squeeze’ the Amal movement and Hezbollah permanently into a corner.
Regarding his observations about the tribunal, he said: ‘I did not scrutinise it because I felt they were not interested in our opinion.’
He added: ‘I discussed the issue at the United Nations.
‘Even Zimbabwe intervened and demanded changes.
‘But they are refusing to let us express our observations.’
He pointed to two principal observations about the tribunal. The first is its ban on the general and private pardon right.
He said: ‘I can understand it when the private pardon is banned, for fear of giving the president of the republic who has this right the chance to pardon a person convicted of the crime.
‘But the general pardon is approved by the Chamber of Deputies (Lebanese parliament), and this cannot be wrested away from it because it strikes deep at the heart of Lebanon’s sovereignty.’
As to the issue of ‘leader and subordinate’, Birri said the way out is to consider the leader responsible for the subordinate’s crime if it is proved that he knew about his intention to commit the crime, because there is then a criminal intent.
The Lebanese speaker went on to say: ‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making mighty efforts and its ambassador in Beirut is working for a solution with a sincerity the likes of which I have never seen.
‘He and I daily “invent” a new exit from the crisis. But any initiative should be based on an intention for a solution by the parties inside (Lebanon).’
Birri described the agreement reached in the Saudi city of Mecca to establish a Palestinian government of national unity as a ‘great work and a big achievement for Saudi Arabia.’
Lebanon was the subject of a bombing blitz by Israeli warplanes last summer, when the Lebanese people, led by the national resistance movement Hezbollah, defeated an attempt by Israel’s army to occupy the south of the country.
The capital Beirut was devastated and many Lebanese people were killed, and some are still being killed, by the cluster bombs the Israelis dropped on the country as their forces retreated.
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