Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Saad Hariri's Latest Speech

Last Friday Saad Hariri held a press lunch in Beirut where he expressed his desire for the embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to remain in power. After all, Mubarak was a key ally. Fast forward to this past Monday when Hariri gave a heated speech to his supporters. Here he praised the popular Egyptian revolution and even claimed that it was inspired by March 14, his now minority coalition that emerged after the assassination of his father. His tone was confrontational and defiant. One has to wonder whether or not he is still taking advice from his friend Mubarak?

Lebanon's Hariri Snubs Bid for Unity

By Nada Raad
The Wall Street Journal
15 February 2011

BEIRUT—Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the political leader of Lebanon's Sunnis, marked the anniversary of his father's assassination by telling supporters he will join the political opposition to Hezbollah.

His successor, Hezbollah-backed Sunni billionaire Najib Mikati, is now negotiating to form a cabinet and had called on Mr. Hariri and his allies to join a unity government. Mr. Hariri's move secures Hezbollah's place as the dominant political force in the next Lebanese government.

With the announcement, in an impassioned, confrontational speech to thousands of supporters, the Sunni leader, who until last month had to manage a range of interests in his own unity government, set the stage for heightened conflict. Mr. Hariri called for mass protests on March 14, and accused Hezbollah and its allies of "lies, betrayal and lack of loyalty."

He also reaffirmed his support for a United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, on Feb. 14, 2005. The assassination, in a car bombing, was a pivotal event in Lebanon, and led to the end of Syria's 30-year military occupation of the country.

Hezbollah brought about the collapse of Mr. Hariri's government after he refused to discredit the tribunal. Officials briefed on the investigation say the tribunal will implicate members of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militant and political organization. Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the assassination, and a Hezbollah-led goverment and cabinet would be expected to reject the tribunal's findings.

"Hariri can now address the needs of his own sectarian constituency: the Sunnis," said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut.

It remains to be seen whether Sunnis will support Mr. Hariri, even as he forms an opposition. Mr. Mikati is also a well-known and respected figure in the Sunni community and many have said they don't mind his leadership.

As prime minister, Mr. Hariri restored relations with Syria. But Mr. Hariri's tone Monday was confrontational, and particularly harsh on Syria, which is regaining its influence in Lebanon with Hezbollah's rise.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the anniversary of the Hariri assassination by reaffirming the U.N.'s commitment to the tribunal, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on "the next Lebanese government" to honor "its obligations to the tribunal."

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