In an exclusive interview Thursday with Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a leading Arabic and English language daily, the head of the Future Movement in Lebanon, Saad al-Hariri [right], followed a delicate balancing act between criticizing Hizbu'llah for leading the National Opposition in massive protests against the government of embattled and ineffectual Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora of which Future is a part and maintaining an open door for dialogue. Hariri, the son of the late assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri (a Saudi national originally), is perhaps the most photogenic of the leaders of the so-called "Cedar Revolution" that, along with heavy international and Arab pressure, forced Syria to withdraw its troops from the country in May 2005. Syrian troops has entered Lebanon in the 1970s and remained through the 1990s to ensure peace between the country's warring factions, with the tacit approval of the Arab League and the United States.
"[What is currently taking place is] a genuine coup project against the Lebanese legitimacy...The essence of the current Lebanese crisis is the presence of an Iranian-sponsored Syrian plan that aims to regain control of the Lebanese legitimacy," he said. "The operation order was issued at the end of the Israeli war on Lebanon on August 15 when [Syrian President] Bashar al Asad [left] openly said that what was needed was a change in the political formula in Lebanon, and the toppling of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government."
"There is no way that we would to go back in time to accept any plan that is aimed at infiltrating the authority in Lebanon by Syrian intelligence and its henchmen," said Hariri. "Thus it is rejected regardless of their mobilization for it. After driving the Syrian troops out, Lebanon will not accept to be the object of a new plan that seeks to dominate its political and economic destiny.”
Despite his criticisms of both Hizbu'llah and AMAL leader and parliament speaker Nabih Berri [right], Hariri said, "We have no alternative to dialogue."
Photo: (center) Rafiq al-Hariri with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud (left) and Nasrallah (right).
To read the entire article/interview in al-Sharq al-Awsat, see:
On Friday, the Sunni grand mufti (chief government-appointed religious leader) of Lebanon, Muhammad Rashid al-Kabbani [right], led congregational prayers at Siniora's headquarters. Kabbani, a personal friend of the late Rafiq al-Hariri who was appointed to his current position with Syrian acquiescene, predictably called for an end to the protests. "Fear has gripped the Lebanese," he said. "The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but trying to overthrow the government in the street is a call for stirring up discord among people, and we will not accept this."
However, not all Lebanese Sunnis support Hariri and Siniora. Shaykh Fathi Yakan [left], a Sunni imam (prayer leader) led thousands of Sunnis and Shi'is in mixed Friday prayers. In his fiery sermon, Yakan urged all Lebanese to resist American designs in Lebanon, touching on a nerve within the majority of Arabs and Muslims (not synonomous groups) about U.S. President George W. Bush's so-called "democratization" doctrine (the one that's working so well in Iraq and Afghanistan.)