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Sayyed Nasrallah Vows to Keep Protesters Downtown Beirut on 08-12-2006

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Source: Compiled by Moqawama.org, 8-12-2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Hizbullah`s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, vowed yesterday to keep protesters in downtown Beirut until they install a new Lebanese government, but insisted that his group and its allies would not provoke another civil war in Lebanon.

The speech, the first by Nasrallah to the protests that began Friday, underlined his skill as a tactician as well as the depth of the stalemate that has paralyzed political life here for nearly six weeks. In the hourlong speech, broadcast live on two sprawling screens, he tread a fine line: keeping his supporters mobilized, often with provocative rhetoric, while urging restraint to forestall clashes; holding the door open to negotiations, while insisting Lebanese officials were complicit with "Israel" in waging this summer`s war, in what amounted to the movement`s strongest attack yet on the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.

"We will not be dragged into any kind of strife even if you kill a thousand of us," he told the cheering crowd, waving Lebanese flags in a square that is walking distance from the government headquarters, where Saniora and other ministers have taken up residence behind barbed wire and barricades. "We will not raise weapons in the face of anyone."
But, he added, "those betting on our surrender are delusional."

In a sign of how tense relations have become, Lebanon`s army commander, Michel Suleiman, pledged yesterday that the army, which split during the civil war, would remain united and urged his soldiers to set aside their sectarian affilations.
Demonstrators have now been on the streets of the capital, Beirut, for seven days and another massive rally has been arranged for Sunday.
The opposition has called for "a historic and decisive" demonstration, according to a statement published in Lebanese newspapers on Thursday.
It also urged the Lebanese to "be ready for other forms and means of peaceful protest" to obtain the fall of the government.

The opposition, which includes Shia, Sunni and Christian factions, said it hoped Sunday would be "a day in which deaf ears and blind eyes would open by meeting the legitimate demands and replacing monopoly with participation and the one-colour government with a national unity government".
"We will stay in the street, but our doors are open," he said. "We will not leave the streets, until our goal is achieved, our goal to save Lebanon."
Behind the screen, strobe lights flashed slogans: "We want a clean government." Others held placards. "The government of Feltman," one read, a reference to U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, "we`ll overthrow it."

Opposition demands

The government has rejected the opposition's demands for increased representation which would give them an effective veto in the cabinet.
Six opposition ministers resigned from the government last month.
Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, has refused to step down and urged Hizbullah and the other opposition parties to return to negotiations.
Michel Aoun, the Christian opposition leader, has warned that his camp would escalate its street protests if the government failed to accept demands for a national unity cabinet.
"If the prime minister and his camp continue to monopolise power, there will be an escalation of popular pressure," Aoun told AFP news agency. "We will paralyse the government; we will force it to go into a deep coma."

PM to make a deal while he can; no to any form of tutelage
"We insist on our demands, for the formation of a real government of national unity ... because it is the only means to prevent any foreign tutelage on Lebanon, so that we have Lebanese decision-making."

Nasrallah also said that the opposition rejects "any tutelage, from any party, whether it is the enemy, brother or friend," referring to Western, Syrian and/or Iranian attempts to control events in Lebanon.
Addressing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the March 14 Forces, he stated that that the protests were not intended to "topple the government, but rather to call for a national unity government headed by Siniora."
"But soon, we will not listen anymore and will not want a government headed by any one of you," he warned.

Nasrallah calls for a war inquiry

Nasrallah then raised the Issue of the war, saying he had kept in on the side for "the sake of Lebanon" but that the time had come for it to be addressed.
"Can anyone accept that in a time of war, the prime minister ordered the Lebanese Army to seize weapons being delivered to us as we were trying to defend our country from "Israel's" attacks?
Nasrallah asked, calling for an independent committee to investigate events during the conflict.
He said that members of the government, whom he did not identify by name, had asked US envoys to get "Israel" to destroy Hizbullah because "the Lebanese couldn`t" and tried to help "Israeli" forces determine his whereabouts during the war.

"Those are the ones responsible for the war, not the resistance," Nasrallah said.
The man who was Lebanon`s acting interior minister during the war, Ahmed Fatfat, rejected Nasrallah`s accusation and challenged him to name names.
In his address, Nasrallah vowed to press on with the rally for a unity government, but he also made a solemn oath that Lebanon`s Shiites would not be "dragged" into a sectarian war with Sunnis. "If anyone thought that we would be frightened away and just surrender and go back home, they are gravely mistaken and are living in illusions, illusions, illusions." Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declared in live television address.

Tens of thousands of cheering demonstrators crammed around two large screens erected in the heart of Downtown Beirut to watch the speech.
"We will not be dragged into any strife even if you kill a thousand of us," Nasrallah promised in the speech.

"We will not raise our arms in the face of anyone in Lebanon ... Our weapons have only been raised against our "Israeli" enemy," he added, speaking from an undisclosed location, as has been the case in most instances since the July-August war with "Israel".
"We will win with our voices, and not with our arms!" vowed Nasrallah, calling for a greater turnout for yet another mass demonstration on Sunday aimed at forcing the government to step down.

"When they killed Ali Ahmad Mahmoud, they wanted to push us to clashes," he said. "I tell them ... we refuse civil war and discord," he added.
As a final gesture of reunification among Sunnis and Shiites, who traditionally pray at different times on Friday, he invited adherents of both sects to show up today "and pray at the same time" in the heart of the increasingly tense capital.

Remain peaceful

Nasrallah also asked followers not to fire into the air after the speech, as they did last week, "because it is a bad Lebanese habit ... and the only place bullets should be directed is at the chests of the "Israeli" enemy."
Nasrallah also blasted Arab and Western governments that have expressed support for Siniora`s government.
"You [Siniora`s Cabinet] have been counting on American backing," he said. "It will not bring you any benefit."

Nasrallah called upon his supporters to "refrain from insulting and disrespecting ruling politicians," a reference to instances in which demonstrators have heaped profane abuse on Siniora and his ministers.
"The door is open for negotiations," he said, "but we will not leave the street before achieving the goal of saving Lebanon."

We will stay in the streets with our doors open to dialogue

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed that his movement will not back down from its week-long protest aimed at replacing the Western-backed government.
The influential leader addressed supporters in a televised speech that was broadcast live to thousands of cheering demonstrators camped outside government offices in central Beirut hours after the government urged a return to talks."At the mass protest on Sunday we will show that those who are betting on our surrender are having an illusion," said Nasrallah, referring to a fresh protest called by the Hizbullah-led opposition.

"Our people do not give up, do not get tired," he said. "We will not go out of the streets before we achieve our objective to save Lebanon," he said.
Earlier, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora urged the opposition, which includes mainly Shiite and Christian factions who want a new unity government, to return to talks.
"However long it takes, the Lebanese will have to sit back down together," Siniora said after the army warned against the "dangers of the continuation of the present situation in a tense climate throughout" the country.

In his speech, Nasrallah responded to Siniora`s offer by saying "whoever wants dialogue knows that the doors of the leaders of the opposition are open."
The deep political tensions in Beirut and street fights that have killed at least one young Shiite man have raised concerns of a resurgence of sectarian strife in a country still reeling from the 1975-1990 civil war.
"We reject any tutelage, from any party, whether it is the enemy, brother or friend," Nasrallah said.

The opposition`s call for a new mass demonstration on Sunday and unspecified "other means" of protest came after thousands of demonstrators have waved flags, sung militant chants and cheered opposition speakers for seven straight days.
"We will stay in the street, but our doors are open," he said. "We will not leave the streets until our goal is achieved, our goal to save Lebanon."

Behind the screen, strobe lights flashed slogans: "We want a clean government," one read. Placards were also held up. "The government of Feltman," one proclaimed in a reference to U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman, "we`ll overthrow it."

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