Hezbollah leader urges Lebanese government to be ‘transparent and honest’

As protests die down, Hassan Nasrallah called for political ‘dialogue’

Supporters of Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement, watch him speak through a giant screen at a mosque in the Lebanese capital Beirut's southern suburbs on November 1, 2019. / AFP / -
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Two weeks after massive anti-government protests began in Lebanon, causing Prime Minster Saad Hariri to resign on Tuesday, Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah called on Friday for the new government to be “transparent and honest”.

“We call for dialogue between all political forces, blocs and the movement,” said Mr Nasrallah in his second speech since protests started on October 17. Last week, the Hezbollah leader signalled he was against the government’s resignation, warning of a new civil war.

The last government's proposal to tax WhatsApp calls triggered mass protests against the Lebanese political elite that is widely viewed as corrupt.

However, demonstrator numbers started to dwindle earlier this week after Mr Hariri resigned and the army re-opened roads.

Supporters of Hezbollah and its ally Amal also violently attacked protesters in Beirut and in the South of the country.

On Friday, Mr Nasrallah once again insinuated that protesters were manipulated by political parties that he did not name.

"Elements pushing towards chaos and internal clashes were strongly present…it was clear that what was wanted was a political coup" he said, quoted by the state-run National News Agency.

The Hezbollah leader also criticised protesters for the “unprecedented” insults and verbal abuse that they have hurled at politicians, particularly at Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, an ally of the party.

However, Mr Nasrallah pushed back against reports after his last speech that said that he had accused protesters of accepting money from foreign countries.

“When we say certain words, some media distort them, and this is what happened during the movement in Lebanon. When I told protesters that your demands are right, and you should be wary of funding for the demonstrations, the media said that I said that embassies were funding you, and I never said that,” he said.

The leader of the Iran-funded party-cum-militia also warned Lebanese politicians to not “contact the US embassy or others to make a decision” about the new government.

Mr Hariri’s resignation, which went against Hezbollah’s wishes, has opened an era of uncertainty in Lebanese politics. While he could be re-appointed to head a smaller cabinet of specialists, other names have emerged to succeed him such as Interior Minister Raya Hassan. Local media reported that parliamentary consultations to form a new government would start on Monday.

Quoted by local newspaper the Daily Star, President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, vowed in a speech on Thursday evening that he would fight corruption and that ministers in the new government would be "selected based on their competence and experience and not on political allegiance or to please leaders".

Mr Aoun also promised to shift the confessional-based power-sharing system of governance in Lebanon to a civil state, one of the protesters’ many demands. This move was laid out in the Taif agreement that ended Lebanon’s 15-year long civil war in 1990 but never implemented.