Hariri rallies supporters against Hezbollah-backed government
On the sixth anniversary of Rafik Hariri's assassination, his son Saad formally announced his opposition to the new government now being formed, which could tilt Lebanon toward Iran and Syria.
In a gathering Monday to commemorate Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination, his son sought to rally his supporters against a new government that he says will lead Lebanon deeper into the embrace of Iran and Syria.Skip to next paragraph
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Saad Hariri, whose coalition government was toppled last month, used the occasion to formally announce his opposition to the new administration now being formed. Led by his successor, Najib Mikati, the dominant partner is the militant Shiite Hezbollah movement.
Speaking to several thousand supporters, he also called for an opposition rally for March 14 – an attempt to rekindle the huge demonstration on that date six years ago that drew some 1 million protesters and was the pinnacle of the Beirut spring protests against Syria's domination of Lebanon.
“We are going on March 14 to say no,” said Hariri. “No to the betrayal of coexistence … no to the armed internal tutelage [of Hezbollah], no to moving Lebanon to an axis rejected by the Lebanese,” he added, referring to the so-called "axis of resistance," which groups Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, among others, against Israel and Western influence in the Middle East.
Hariri based his movement's opposition to the new government on its continued support for the United Nations-based tribunal investigating his father's assassination and to protect Lebanon from the "predominance of weapons," a reference to the arms held by Hezbollah.
Uphill battle for popular support
But Hariri faces an uphill struggle to recreate the wave of popular support that followed the assassination of his father. At that time, a series of mass demonstrations in central Beirut toppled the pro-Syrian government and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Since then, however, Lebanon has been wracked by internal crises, assassinations, a war with Israel, and political deadlock, culminating in the collapse of Hariri’s coalition government last month when ministers allied to Hezbollah resigned.
The resignations came after Hariri refused to yield to pressure to cease cooperation with the Netherlands-based tribunal. The first set of indictments, which are expected to be released in the coming weeks, reportedly will name members of Hezbollah. Hezbollah denies any involvement in Hariri’s assassination.