Open war on Israel; harms Hezbollah and Arab cause, says Seniora

Other News Materials 16 February 2008 17:01 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa)- Lebanon's western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Seniora said Lebanon has no interest in an "open war" on Israel as this would harm Hezbollah in addition to the Islamic and Arab causes, Lebanese reports quoted him Saturday as saying.

"I don't believe we have an interest to wage an open war worldwide because this would be harmful to Hezbollah as well as to the Islamic and Arab causes," Seniora was quoted as telling the Lebanese satellite channel Future TV.

"We have had an earlier experience. We must not repeat this experience," Seniora said in reference to the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday declared "open war" on Israel after accusing the Jewish state of killing his top commander Imad Muganiyeh in a car bomb blast in Damascus at dawn the same day.

Referring to the Lebanese internal political crisis, Seniora said that the government will stay as long as it has the anti-Syrian ruling majority's confidence.

Seniora urged Nasrallah and Christian leader General Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who are close allies of Hezbollah, to "do what is best for an independent, Arab, free, diverse Lebanon."

He called for presidential elections and the resumption of roundtable talks.

In reference to relations with neighbouring Syria and its ally Iran, Seniora said Lebanon must help broker "historical reconciliation" between Tehran and the Arab world.

"We have deep-rooted cultural and historical relationships with Iran. We reject any attack on Iran, yet we reject its attempts to dominate Lebanon," Seniora explained.

"We don't want Lebanon to become an arena for regional conflicts, as we seek excellent relationships with all Arab nations and on top with sisterly Syria," the premier said.

"We demanded Syrian troops withdrawal from Lebanon but not to be replaced by American or Iranian or French or Israeli hegemony," he explained.

Syrian-Lebanese ties have been tense since former premier Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb blast in Beirut in February 2005. The anti-Syrian ruling majority blamed Hariri's murder on Damascus and its Lebanese allies - a charge Syria has repeatedly denied.

The international and local pressure following Hariri's death led Syria to end its 30-year military presence in Lebanon in 2005.

Seniora also urged Hezbollah's leadership to stop accusing the ruling majority of treason.

"We must stop accusing each other of treachery and start building trust with Hezbollah," the premier said.

Seniora stressed that it was essential to elect a president before the upcoming Arab summit in Damascus in late March.

"Should the Arab summit be held without Lebanese participation ... I leave the decision for the Arabs," he said.

Lebanon has been without a president since last November when pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his term. A subsequent power struggle between the ruling majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition has left a continuing vacuum.