Hezbollah leader defends actions


People watch the televised speech of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah at a cafe in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon (AP)

The leader of Hezbollah has defended the decision to bring down Lebanon’s Western-backed government, saying the Shiite militant group did so without resorting to violence and will not be intimidated by world reaction.

In his first comments since the government collapsed on Wednesday, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah also said that his bloc will not support Saad Hariri returning to his post as prime minister in talks today on forming a new government.

In a televised speech, Mr Nasrallah said: “We carried out a constitutional, legal and democratic step to bring down the government. We did not use weapons. We are not scared of speeches, statements or anyone’s threats in this world.”

Eleven ministers allied to Hezbollah resigned from the Cabinet on Wednesday, enough to force the government to fall.

The crisis is the climax of long-simmering tensions over the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Mr Hariri’s father, Sunni former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The court is expected to indict members of Hezbollah, which could re-ignite hostilities between Lebanon’s rival Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Hezbollah is Lebanon’s most powerful military force, with an arsenal that far outweighs that of the national army.

Saad Hariri had refused Hezbollah’s demands to cease cooperation with the court, prompting Wednesday’s walkout.

Mr Nasrallah’s speech was seen as important sign of his movement’s mindset at a time when many fear the country’s political tension could descend into civil strife.

His demeanour was calm and he emphasised that Hezbollah will work for change through democratic means.

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