Hezbollah issued a statement today saying that the idea of US military bases in Lebanon is unacceptable, and would be considered “a hostile act. American soldiers on Lebanese soil will be considered an occupation force and will be treated as such.” Added Hezbollah official Nawaf Mussawi :”Let the Americans take this message as they wish.”
Meanwhile Walid Jumblatt, freshly returned from a trip to Washington and New York, where he’s been trying to convince Moon and, more to the point, Bush, to support the idea of a March 14 candidate as opposed to a compromise candidate (which gives you a good idea of the kind of “sovereignty” and “independence” the M14 people have in mind for Lebanon), felt compelled to in return describe Hezbollah as “a Syrian-Iranian occupation force” and flatly accused the resistance of being behind the assassination campaign.
On a possibly more positive note, there has been a suspicious frequency of get-togethers between figures of the government and the opposition, the most recent being Gemayyel meeting with Berry. This followed Aoun and Gemayyel meeting at patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir’s place. The maronite patriarch is desperate to reunite the Lebanese christians, or at least the maronites, around one leader. For some reason, people within one sectarian group having different opinions and supporting different parties is not seen as the normal process of democracy here in Lebanon, but as dangerous “division” and “strife” or even “treason”. Everybody is supposed to stick together, have the same opinion (or rather, no informed opinion whatsoever) and follow one strong leader. As a Syrian friend of mine remarked recently, in Syria there is one big dictatorship, in Lebanon there are a dozen or so local small ones – all of them theocracies of one kind or another. “Neo-feudal” is the best description I’ve heard yet of the Lebanese “democracy”. Anyway, the scheduled parliamentary meeting to elect a president on 23 october (i.e. tomorrow) has been postponed “to allow the two sides to work out a compromise”, amid signs that the 14 March forces finally seem to have entered the process of giving up their opposition to a compromise candidate. Well, except Jumblatt, of course.