BEIRUT: Prime Minister Hassan Diab refused to resign following a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutros Rai Saturday at his summer residence in Dimane.
He also denied that his cabinet is a Hezbollah government and called the issue of Lebanon neutrality ‘ political’ and needs a deep political dialogue by all political parties.”
“I will not resign because if I resign the alternative will not be found with ease,” Diab said
When asked about calls for Lebanon’s neutrality, Diab said that accusations that the government was a “Hezbollah government,” sounded like a “broken record.” However, the premier said that “the issue of neutrality is a political one … and it needs a deep political dialogue by all political parties.”
Diab’s comments came after numerous calls made Patriarch Rai for the international community to declare Lebanon’s neutrality toward regional and global conflicts, a sensitive and contentious issue that is likely to cause further political divisions in the crisis-hit country.
Lebanese protesters took to the streets in Beirut and other cities last month in mostly peaceful protests against the government, calling for its resignation as the small country sinks deeper into economic distress.
The protests come after two days of rallies spurred by a dramatic collapse of the local currency against the dollar. Those rallies degenerated into violence, including attacks on private banks and shops.
The local currency, pegged to the dollar for nearly 30 years, has been on a downward trajectory for weeks, losing over 80% of its value. But the dramatic collapse the weeks that followed deepened public despair over the already troubled economy. Lebanon is heavily dependent on imports, and the dollar and local currency have been used interchangeably for years.
Diab’s government came to power in February following enormous anti-establishment street protests, on the promise that he would implement wide-ranging reforms, but so far he has failed in implementing any reforms and his ability to implement any reforms in the future has increasingly come into question.
In an indirect criticism of the Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group over its role in regional conflicts, Rai renewed last Tuesday his calls for Lebanon neutrality towards regional conflicts, stressing that Lebanon has become isolated and is losing its original identity.
“We said nothing new when we demanded Lebanon’s neutrality from regional conflicts. We want back our basic identity, a neutral Lebanon, a civil state, pluralism and coexitence,” said Rai .
He emphasized that “neutrality is a basic international, European and Arab demand. When we demand neutrality we demand commitment to justice, safety, human rights and that bridge between the East and West.”
The 2012 Baabda Declaration, which had underscored Lebanon’s neutrality with regard to the events in the Middle East region was aimed at dissociating Lebanon from regional conflicts, but Hezbollah which signed off on the declaration continues to violate it .
Lebanon’s main problem
With its arms Hezbollah has been able to completely control all the 3 branches of the government .
Thru its alliance with the Amal Movement which is headed by Speaker Nabih Berri it controls the leadership of the parliament and thru its alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement whose founder is Michel Aoun, it now controls the presidency and by appointing PM Diab ( who is only supported by Hezbollah and its allies ) Hezbollah now controls the government .
For this reason many analysts claim that Lebanon has become a colony of Iran that is administered by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist group by several western countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Argentina, Paraguay , as well as some Arab League members . Some countries, such as Australia and France, classify Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization.
For the same reasons there has been many protests calling for implementing UN Resolution 1559 which calls for disarming Hezbollah
Its support for the Syrian regime and the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Shiite militias throughout the Middle East where Iran is involved and its attacks against the Arabian gulf countries have isolated Lebanon from its traditional allies.
Hezbollah’s Nasrallah even pledged allegiance to Iran in September 2019 . Iran on the other hand claims its borders starts in southern Lebanon , a Hezbollah stronghold bordering Israel.
“Lebanon was open to all countries, east and west, except Israel which occupied our land. Lebanon was Switzerland of the east … Today, Lebanon has become isolated from the whole world. This is not our identity. Our identity is positive and constructive neutrality, not a warrior Lebanon,” added the Patriarch last Tuesday.
When Diab was appointed , Hezbollah, Amal, and Aoun marketed him as an independent who will form a technocrat government to meet the demands of the protesters
But Diab formed a cabinet of people who were picked by the 3 parties; Hezbollah, Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal and Michel Aoun’s FPM . None of the ministers in his cabinet are independent . Many predicted he will fail as a PM because all the 3 parties that back him are totally opposed to any reform .