Lebanese Hezbollah insists on government demand, warns Israel

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Shiite group leader Hezbollah has insisted that one of its Sunni allies be given a portfolio in a new Lebanese cabinet and said it would be ready to return to the box departure to negotiate a government if necessary. .

Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen in Nabatiyeh, Lebanon on November 10, 2018. REUTERS / Aziz Taher

In a televised speech on Saturday, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also warned Israel that his Iran-backed group would react to any attack on Lebanon and urged his country to resist diplomatic pressure on its arsenal of rockets.

Hezbollah's request to give a portfolio to one of its Sunni allies in the new Lebanese government is at the heart of a quarrel that obstructs a final deal six months after the parliamentary elections.

The formation of a new government is needed before taking action for tax reforms that, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June, are needed immediately to improve debt sustainability.

Hezbollah says that one of its Sunni allies must be represented in the government to reflect its electoral gains.

But Prime Minister-designate, Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon's leading Sunni politician and enjoying support from the West, has ruled out the allocation of seats to his cabinet.

The Lebanese political system demands that government posts be assigned along sectarian lines.

Nasrallah said that the rejection of a Sunni ally of his "March 8" camp was tantamount to the exclusion of some Lebanese.

"We were sincere when we talked about a government of national unity. There is no national logic, no moral logic, no legal logic … that anyone in Lebanon decides and declares: "It is forbidden for the Sunnis of March 8 to be represented in the Lebanese government", declared Nasrallah.

"If this is forbidden, let's start from the beginning," he said, adding, "We do not want any conflict, tension or escalation".

President Michel Aoun has committed Saturday to find a solution to the problem. Although he is a political ally of Hezbollah, Aoun has sided with Hariri.

Hezbollah, groups and individuals who support its possession of weapons won more than 70 out of 128 seats in the May 6th legislative elections.

Hezbollah is banned as a terrorist group by the United States. The group last fought a major conflict with Israel in 2006, when it became militarily stronger as a major participant in the war in Syria.

Nasrallah said that Israel had recently tried to increase the pressure on the group 's rocket arsenal and create "a state of intimidation and threat that, if this affair does not occur, it will not be possible. was not settled, he (Israel) would take care of it ". Israel has used "the Americans and even some European states" in this effort, he said.

"I say in Lebanon that he must endure this level of diplomatic pressure," Nasrallah said. "Any attack on Lebanon, any airstrikes on Lebanon or any bombardment – we will certainly react," he said.

Report by Tom Perry and Laila Bassam; edited by David Stamp

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