Hezbollah MPs step up attacks on US over Lebanon ‘meddling’

In this photo from a drone, anti-government protesters gather during separate civil parade at the Martyr square, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon,on Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Updated 24 November 2019

Hezbollah MPs step up attacks on US over Lebanon ‘meddling’

  • ‘We want a government distant from US desires,’ claims caretaker minister.
  • Allegations of foreign interference ‘ridiculous,’ says former Future Movement MP Mustafa Alloush

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and its allies in the Lebanese government on Saturday widened their attacks on the US over alleged meddling in the country’s political future.

In an interview with the Central News Agency (Al-Markazia), Muhammad Fneish, Hezbollah’s minister in the caretaker government, referred to “foreign interference in our affairs” and said: “We want to form a sovereign government that is distant from US desires and foreign accounts.”
He said that recent statements by former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman had “complicated matters.”
Feltman told a US House of Representatives hearing last Tuesday that most Lebanese people have lost faith in Hezbollah and that there is growing anger against Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil for providing “Christian cover” for the militant party.
The comments sparked outrage in Lebanon with Hezbollah and its allies accusing the former envoy of “interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs.”
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem joined the criticism on Saturday, accusing the US of “meddling in the formation of a new Lebanese government.”
“Hezbollah is determined not to fall into strife,” he said, adding: “I do not see signs of a civil war in Lebanon.”
As widespread street protests in the country entered their 38th day, MP Salim Aoun, a member of the parliamentary bloc loyal to the president and the Free Patriotic Movement, claimed that protesters have created a “political movement.”
“No matter what we give them, nothing pleases them,” he said, accusing international bodies of backing the demonstrations.
“We know who is intervening and what their goals are,” Aoun said.
Amal MP and Hezbollah ally Ali Bazzi asked: “Is it true that there is aim to create a political vacuum and chaos in the country?”
Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin also questioned the motives of the civil movement. Speaking in Beirut, he said that “people’s demands have turned against Hezbollah, and this is a very serious matter.”
Zasypkin urged “the Lebanese parties to find a compromise solution that satisfies everyone on the formation of a government.”
However, former Future Movement MP Mustafa Alloush described Hezbollah’s claims of US meddling as “ridiculous.”
“To say that the US is behind a movement that brought thousands of people on to the streets to demand tax cuts and jobs is a ridiculous accusation. Will they prosecute people for high treason?” he asked.
“Hezbollah supporters who are paid by Iran, take up arms, and fight and kill people, are not held accountable. How does this make sense?”
Public affairs analyst Walid Fakhreddine also rejected claims of a US conspiracy, saying: “We have seen these accusations at the beginning of the movement and now they are back. We were accused of treason and of receiving funding for the protests. They do not understand what is happening. People are now in a different place.”
Fakhreddine warned that the ruling class is “dragging the country into financial and economic collapse.”
“They insist on leading the country into bankruptcy. What is required is an independent transitional government that will hold early elections,” he said.
“They think people are revolting because they want to be represented in government. This is not true. The civil movement does not want to share power. We are looking for a homeland. They accuse us of demagoguery. We are a people who want real reform, not their corrupt reform.”

Haftar, Saleh in surprise Cairo visit for crisis talks on Libya

Updated 9 min 10 sec ago

Haftar, Saleh in surprise Cairo visit for crisis talks on Libya

  • The meeting in Cairo followed a surprise visit to the Egyptian capital by Haftar and Saleh on Tuesday

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday held crisis talks with the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, and parliament speaker, Aguila Saleh, on latest developments in the Libya conflict.

The meeting in Cairo followed a surprise visit to the Egyptian capital by Haftar and Saleh on Tuesday that coincided with a speech at the UN by El-Sisi in which he said Egypt would intervene if the “red line” provinces of Sirte and Jufra were crossed.

During Wednesday’s discussions in Cairo, held in the presence of Abbas Kamel, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (GIS), El-Sisi was briefed on efforts from all parties to implement a cease-fire and Libyan attempts to advance the peace process under the auspices of the UN.

According to media reports, Haftar, Saleh, and Egyptian officials would be reviewing military matters and progress on political initiatives.

The visit came within the framework of coordination and consultation talks on a number of issues, most notably the fight against terrorism, and Egyptian efforts to broker security and stability in Libya through political dialogue. Initiatives on Libya that took place in Geneva and Morocco, such as holding elections and forming a new government, were also likely to be on the agenda.

In June, Haftar and Saleh met with the Egyptian president and announced the Cairo Declaration for a cease-fire and resolution to the political crisis in Libya. Sources said their latest visit was to clarify Cairo’s position with international and Libyan parties, discuss a comprehensive solution to the Libyan crisis through international agreements, and smooth over any misunderstandings.

The unscheduled trip was due to recent developments in Libya and the intention of the Government of National Accord (GNA) to establish an army in Libya, the sources added.

Salah Al-Nimroush, minister of defense in the GNA which is headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj, has announced the start of programs to build and develop his government’s army with the help of Turkey.

He also said that a military training center had been set up in the suburbs of the Libyan capital and that the priority was to build the army, according to international standards, with the young support force that participated in the defense of Tripoli.

As well as security, the subject of Libyan oil was up for discussion with the Egyptian authorities.

Last week, the Libyan army announced its agreement to reopen oil fields and resume exports on condition that guarantees were made for the fair distribution of oil revenues and the prevention of their use for funding terrorism and fueling corruption.

In a speech addressed to Libyans, Haftar said that the General Command of the army would not hesitate to make concessions as long as they were in the interests of the Libyan people, with the aim of preventing further deterioration of the economic situation in the country.