Hariri rules out Hezbollah alliance, rallies electoral base

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As scores of followers gathered at Beirut’s Biel to mark the thirteenth anniversary of his late father’s death, Hariri unequivocally rejected any sort of alliance with Hezbollah, while dismissing claims that his party ceded ground to the militant group.

by Georgi Azar

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri rallied his electoral base ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, calling on supporters of his Future Movement to cast their votes in large swathes during a ceremony commemorating his father’s assassination.  As scores of followers gathered at Beirut’s Biel to mark the thirteenth anniversary of his late father’s death, Hariri unequivocally rejected any sort of alliance with Hezbollah, while dismissing claims that his party ceded ground to the militant group.

“Our party isn’t up for sale,” Hariri said, before affirming that “despite our party’s financial hardships, we will emerge victorious.”

Hariri’s financial troubles have severely hit his Future Movement, limiting his ability to fund a wide scale electoral campaign after his Saudi construction company ‘Oger’ shut down in July of 2017.

“People have said that we will lose the elections because of our lack of funds, this is an insult to you and the rest of Rafik Hariri’s supporters,” he said, adding in a defiant tone that “our votes aren’t up for sale and can’t be bought.”

Addressing his detractors and previous allies, Hariri accused his “previous friends of trying to divide the Future Movement in favor of Hezbollah.

“Those who claim that the upcoming government will legalize Hezbollah’s weapons are only benefiting them,” Hariri noted.

“I won’t name them, you know very well who they are,” he said, in a veiled attack at former ally and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi who resigned in 2015 following a dispute with the current Premier.

Rifi had emphatically objected Hezbollah’s perceived rise in influence within Lebanon’s political sphere, stepping down from his post in the wake of Hariri initially nominating Marada Movement Chief Suleiman Franjieh, a close Hezbollah ally, for the presidency.

Nearly 13 years after Rafik Hariri’s death in a massive explosion in central Beirut, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has yet to issue a verdict in the trial held at The Hague, after four Hezbollah members accused of carrying out the assassination were indicted in 2011.

Yet Hariri vowed to pursue those accused, saying that the upcoming government will abide by the verdict once it’s issued by the tribunal.

“It will be part of our electoral program that Lebanese authorities abide by the verdict, by arresting and prosecuting the killers,” Hariri said.

The four men accused in the killing, Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra were first tried in absentia in 2011.

Mustafa Badreddine was killed in a car blast in Syria in 2016, which Hezbollah blamed on Sunni extremists, while the whereabouts of the three other men remain unknown.

 

 

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