June 7, 2009 / 11:16 PM / 11 years ago

Hezbollah camp should be in Lebanon government: Jumblatt

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah and its allies should take part in a new Lebanese government, Walid Jumblatt said on Sunday, after the Druze politician’s U.S.-backed coalition defeated the Shi’ite group’s camp in a parliamentary election.

A Lebanese Druze rides his ATV decorated with Progressive Socialist Party flags in front of a giant poster of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt in a street in Aley June 6, 2009. REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi

Jumblatt, a leading figure in the anti-Syrian “March 14” alliance, told Reuters he did not support the idea of veto power in the new cabinet for the Hezbollah camp, which politicians on both sides told Reuters had lost the election.

Hezbollah, a heavily armed group backed by Syria and Iran, has repeatedly called for the formation of a “national unity government” that would give effective veto power to the minority alliance in the 128-seat parliament.

“I said no to the blocking minority,” Jumblatt said.

Asked if he supported the participation of the opposition alliance in government, he said: “Yes, but I cannot decide on my own. I am part of a coalition and it should be a unanimous decision.”

The March 14 alliance, led by Saudi-backed Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri, successfully defended the parliamentary majority it won four years ago, politicians in the rival camps said. Final results are due on Monday.

March 14 currently leads a national unity government in which Hezbollah and its allies hold effective veto power.

The current power-sharing arrangement, resisted for months by Hariri and his allies, was brokered last year by Qatari mediators as part of a deal to end a power struggle that had spilled into the worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

DON’T “ISOLATE THE OTHER PARTIES”

Jumblatt had been one of the toughest critics of Hezbollah, whose guerrilla army outguns the state’s security forces.

But he has adopted a more conciliatory stance toward Hezbollah since May 2008 after the group and its allies routed followers of the Hariri-led coalition, including Druze in the mountains east of Beirut.

Jumblatt called for the continuation of dialogue between the rival leaders, whose power struggle paralyzed Lebanon for 18 months and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

“We should not forget that the elections should be a boost to the dialogue and we should not try to isolate the other parties,” he said. “I do insist on the question of dialogue at the conference table, which is also very important because there should not be isolation of a party or of a community. It will lead to nowhere in Lebanon.”

Hariri and his allies, including the Christian Phalange and Lebanese Forces parties, have campaigned on a platform of building a strong Lebanese state with a monopoly on the force of arms — a direct challenge to Hezbollah.

“It seems we have been able, in our build up... to say that Lebanon should be guaranteed by one state, (that) we should incorporate, slowly but surely, the weapons of Hezbollah inside the Lebanese army and that the decision of war and peace should be taken only by the Lebanese state,” Jumblatt said.

“It seems that this appeal has proved to be effective and successful,” he added.

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