Hariri lashes out at opposition and its Syrian, Iranian allies

Other News Materials 7 February 2008 21:35 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The head of Lebanon's anti-Syrian ruling majority Saad Hariri Thursday lashed out at the Hezbollah-lead opposition and its Syrian and Iranian backers accusing them of working towards "destroying Lebanon."

"If they want a confrontation we are ready for it," Hariri said during a speech at his residence in Beirut.

Hariri called on his followers to gather and go to downtown Beirut to mark the 2005 assassination of his father, late premier Rafik Hariri.

"Let us gather at the Martyr square on February 14 to mark my father's assassination and all the martyrs who fell after him and tell them we are stronger then your terrorist attacks," Hariri said.

Rafik Hariri was killed along 20 others on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005, in the first of a series of political assassinations in Lebanon largely blamed on Syria. Damascus has vehemently denied any involvement.

"We are not afraid of their threats or the threats of the regimes behind them," he said, stressing that the Lebanese wanted a free and democratic Lebanon, "not a Lebanon ruled by the Syrian and Iranian regimes."

"We tell them the international tribunal (in the Hariri case) will be set soon to punish the culprits and the killers," Hariri warned.

Referring to the current visit of Arab Secretary General Amr Mussa, Hariri stressed the majority fully backed the Arab initiative and was ready to go to parliament on February 11 to elect army commander Michel Suleiman as president.

"The doors of the presidency goes through Beirut and the Parliament and not through Damascus or Tehran," he said.

Mussa arrived in Beirut earlier Thursday for a new round of talks with rival Lebanese leaders to end the presidential crisis in the country.

On January 5, the Arab League proposed a three-point Arab initiative calling for Suleiman to be elected as a consensus president to replace former president Emile Lahoud, whose term ended on November 23.

The initiative also calls for the formation of a national unity government in which no one party has veto power and the adoption of a new electoral law.

While Lebanon's ruling coalition has accepted the plan, the opposition demands a third of the seats in a new government so it can have a veto power.

The parliament has postponed 13 sessions since September after the leaders failed to reach an agreement to elect a consensus candidate.

Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on January 27 urged all sides in the dispute to vote for Suleiman on Monday.