Lebanese Christian leader: alliance with Hezbollah in jeopardy | Local News

Lebanese Christian leader: alliance with Hezbollah in jeopardy

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The leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian parliamentary bloc says a 15-year alliance with the country’s powerful Shiite group Hezbollah is no longer working and must evolve

The televised speech by Gebran Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, signaled an unprecedented level of frustration with Hezbollah and suggested that the 2006 alliance credited with helping to keep the peace in the small country was in danger. .

But Bassil, a former foreign minister, said the alliance is costing him credibility with his supporters. Bassil is also the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun. He has positioned himself as a reformer and would have the ambition to run for president himself.

Bassil blamed his frustration on Hezbollah’s other ally, the powerful Shiite movement Amal, led by Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri. He said that in recent months Hezbollah had supported Amal de Berri at the expense of his own alliance.

“We came to an agreement with Hezbollah (in 2006) and not with Amal,” Bassil said in an hour-long speech. “When we find out that the one who makes the decisions in (this alliance) is Amal, it is our right to reconsider.”

Hezbollah and its allies control most seats in parliament and are the main supporters of the government that took office in September. But the government and parliament are crippled as political disagreements deepen and Lebanon faces an unprecedented economic crisis that has been unraveling since 2019.

Berri is a longtime rival of Bassil, who accused him of using his power in parliament to block several of his bills.

Hezbollah has called for the judge’s dismissal, leading to paralysis in the government. The deadly October clashes between Amal and Hezbollah supporters and Christian gunmen were sparked by the dispute over the investigation and further strained relations with Bassil’s party, which accused Amal of violence.

Bassil criticized Hezbollah for failing to back his party on reform laws he said are aimed at eradicating corruption and ensuring decentralized financial policies, or in efforts to protect the president’s constitutional powers. Such choices left Bassil unable to justify Hezbollah’s decisions to his supporters, he added, openly blaming Berri for the breakup.

“It’s understandable that Americans want to corner Hezbollah, but we don’t understand why (Hezbollah) wants to corner themselves,” Bassil said of Hezbollah’s alliance with Berri.

Hezbollah is designated as a terrorist group by the United States. Bassil has been placed on a US sanctions list for corruption. He says the sanctions are aimed at putting pressure on him to quash his alliance with Hezbollah.

“We don’t want to cancel or tear up the MoU (2006),” Bassil said. “But we want it to evolve because it no longer responds to the challenges, particularly economic and financial, which we are facing.”

Supporters hail the alliance as a step towards a more democratic Lebanon, transcending traditional rivalry between Christians and Shiites. For Hezbollah, the alliance with Christian groups, traditionally on the Western side, provided it with cover after its 2006 war with Israel.

“Of course, we are stronger electorally if we are allied with Hezbollah,” Bassil said. “But between winning the election and winning ourselves, we choose ourselves, our credibility and our dignity.”

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