Lebanon's Hezbollah insists on a coalition government

SARAH EL DEEB
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Lebanon Hezbollah's Test

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2019 file photo, supporters of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah hold his pictures and waves Hezbollah flags in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. Iranian-backed Hezbollah built a reputation among supporters in Lebanon as a champion of the poor and a defender of the country against Israel's much more powerful military. Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — The head of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group said Friday the best emergency government to deal with the country's worsening economic crisis is one that includes all political groups.

Hassan Nasrallah's comments indicated there was no resolution yet on who should head an emergency government, two months after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned Oct 29.

Protests erupted Oct. 17 over proposed new taxes and spiraled into calls for the entire political elite to step down. The protesters have also said they won't accept Hariri as returning prime minister.

Consultations between President Michel Aoun and parliamentary blocs to name a new premier were expected Monday. They were postponed once before over disagreements on naming a new premier.

Nasrallah's comments were also a rejection of a proposition put forward by political ally Gebran Bassil, who called for a government made up of experts and said he won't take part in one headed by Hariri. Bassil said Thursday a government picked by Hariri, according to his conditions, would be destined to fail.

Hariri had said he wants a government without political groups, made up of technocrats alone.

“The patriotic duty calls for everyone to take responsibility, to take part and for all to offer concessions,” Nasrallah said in an 70-minute speech in which he characterized the situation in Lebanon as dire. “How can a government from one group deal with a crisis of this nature?”

He said any “salvation government would have to take unpopular measures,” and can't afford to engage in disagreements with other political parties.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah had supported a coalition government headed by Hariri, but said the resigned prime minister laid down conditions his group found “inappropriate and some of them were exclusionary.” He didn't elaborate but urged him to give up some of his conditions.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah is ready to support a consensus candidate for the premier post, but only as part of a coalition government that represents everyone.

Hezbollah and its political allies dominate the current caretaker government.

Lebanon has been grappling with nationwide protests and faces one of its worst economic crisis in decades, only deepened by the political stalemate.

Under Lebanon's sectarian-based political system, the prime minister is chosen from the Sunni community.

Hariri, backed by the West but who entered into a national unity government dominated by Hezbollah, called for a government of technocrats after he resigned Oct. 29.

An international group of Lebanon’s allies said the country cannot expect to receive aid unless a new government is formed to institute major reforms.