01/22/2011, 00.00
LEBANON
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Jumblatt with Hezbollah: a "white coup"

by Paul Dakiki
Re-candidacy of Hariri uncertain. His supporters study next moves. Geagea cancels a visit to France. Turkey and Qatar leave mediation. In two days time President’s consultations for new government begin. Concerns about a new political stalemate and perhaps new tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The politicians of the “March 14” group that supports Prime Minister Saad Hariri, meet this afternoon in Ashrafieh to assess what has been called the "White coup d'etat” last night by the leader Druze Walid Jumblatt, who in a press conference said he would support Hezbollah in the formation of a new Lebanese government.

Jumblatt said with some solemnity that he is "on the side of Syria and the resistance." And he said this choice was for "the stability of Lebanon."

Last week, Hezbollah brought down the national unity government, accusing Prime Minister Hariri of not speaking out against the International Tribunal for Lebanon, which - according to press rumours- is set to acknowledge some members of the Shiite guerrilla movement as responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri (Saad's father) February 14, 2005.

The curious thing is that even Walid Jumblatt's father is suspected of having been murdered by the Syrians, and he himself had supported the national movement to expel the Syrian army from Lebanon in 2005.

Pending President Michel Suleiman’s opening of consultations in two days, Samir Geagea, head of the Maronite coalition March 14, cancelled his visit to France, to stay in Lebanon and to study the situation.

In recent days, ministers from Turkey and Qatar (and at a distance from Saudi Arabia and Syria) have rushed to mediate, but their work has been in vain.

Despite the obstacles, Saad Hariri has decided to re-candidate himself for government, but after his Jumblatt’s declarations his re-election seems difficult. To win parliament, Hariri would need at least 65 votes out of 128 (he has 60), Hezbollah and its allies command 57 votes. According to analysts, Jumblatt brings at least 7 of the 10 votes of his party. In any case, Hezbollah has already declared that it will support Saad Hariri and has proposed the Sunni Omar Karami.

The disintegration of the national unity government and the coalition is likely to open a new long crisis in Lebanon, which has remained without a president and no government for months. Some fear that a struggle between Sunnis and Shiites will reignite along the lines of May 2008, with hundreds of deaths, bringing the country to the brink of civil war.
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