International

Hezbollah says its ‘arms won’t be twisted’ as crisis deepens

39Views

BEIRUT: Political talks to agree an urgently needed Lebanese government are still deadlocked, three senior sources said on Sunday (Nov 10), as the powerful Shi'ite group Hezbollah indicated it would not be forced into concessions.

The latest failure to break Lebanon's political impasse will worsen pressures on an economy gripped by its deepest crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, amid protests against a political establishment widely regarded as corrupt and inept.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Since reopening a week ago, commercial banks have been seeking to stave off capital flight by blocking most transfers abroad and imposing curbs on hard-currency withdrawals, though the central bank has announced no formal capital controls.

A big part of Lebanon's economic crisis stems from a slowdown of capital inflows which has led to a scarcity of US dollars and spawned a black market where the Lebanese pound has weakened below its official pegged rate.

A meeting on Saturday evening between caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and senior officials from Hezbollah and its Shi'ite ally Amal failed to yield any breakthrough towards forming the new cabinet, the sources said.

"The crisis is deepening," one source familiar with Hariri's position said. A senior source familiar with the view of Hezbollah and Amal said: "Nothing has changed. So far the road is completely blocked." A third senior source said the situation was still deadlocked.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Hariri quit on Oct 29 in the face of unprecedented protests fuelled by poverty, joblessness and lack of basic services like electricity.

Hariri wants to lead a technocratic government devoid of other politicians, while Amal, Hezbollah and its Christian ally the Free Patriotic Movement want a government mixing technocrats and politicians.

"NOTHING HAS CHANGED"

The source familiar with Hariri's views has said he believes a cabinet composed of both technocrats and politicians would not be able to secure Western assistance and would also anger protesters who want to see a change of leadership.

Hariri reiterated his position in the meeting with caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil of Amal and top Hezbollah official Hussein Khalil, the senior source familiar with Hezbollah and Amal's view said.

Both Hezbollah and Amal communicated their view – that Hariri should return as premier of a new 'technopolitical' cabinet – at the meeting. Hariri said he would only agree to head a technocratic cabinet.

"Practically, what he wants is a government devoid of Hezbollah," the senior source said. "After 10 days have passed, matters must be decided."

The source familiar with Hariri's position said he believed Hezbollah, Amal and the FPM were seekiRead More – Source