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Nasrallah urges timely elections wider dialogue

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 Sayyed warns supporters not to bet on Obama

BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Tuesday that it was crucial for Lebanon’s 2009 legislative elections to be held "on time." "Not holding the elections or postponing them would be very dangerous," Nasrallah said in a speech to mark Martyrs Day that was broadcast via video link to a gathering of resistance supporters in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

It would be in the interests of all parties, he argued, to hold free and fair elections "without obstruction or postponement."

Nasrallah also stressed the need to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 and called on MPs to adopt a constitutional amendment for that purpose.

He also reiterated his loyalty to his allies in the opposition, vowing that "recent reconciliations or meetings do not breach this firm commitment."

Nasrallah said reconciliation efforts were "welcomed and we have our hand extended to all."

"Reconciliations are a national interest, all groups are interested in having a calm political situation," he added. 

Concerning broadcasts on Syrian television last week of confessions by alleged Fatah al-Islam militants for a deadly September bombing in Damascus, Nasrallah called for "a serious and transparent investigation."

In the broadcast, the suspects said that Fatah al-Islam, an Al-Qaeda-linked group which battled the Lebanese Army last year at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, had links to Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri’s Future Movement. Nasrallah and Hariri met for their own reconciliation session in late October.

"We support Lebanese-Syrian security coordination and we are sincere in our calls that justice be removed from politics," he added.

He also thanked Lebanese Army intelligence for last month’s arrest of a cell that collaborated with Israel. "I hope the day comes when evidence shows that Israel is involved in the bombings and assassinations that happened in Lebanon," he said.

Nasrallah stressed that equipping the army was "a priority," adding that discussions of a national defense strategy should be completed "soon."

"Despite disagreements … all groups agree that the Lebanese Army should have an integral role in defending Lebanon," he said, adding that it was "a pity" that a proposal by his ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader and MP Michel Aoun, to integrate Hizbullah with the military, had not been well received.

He also called for the number of participants in the dialogue to be expanded "so we can face burdens together and transform the dialogue table into a true forum for discussion."

The sayyed also cautioned his supporters against expecting a change in US foreign policy with the election of President-elect Barack Obama.

"Our Arab world, our Third World and our African world can empathize with Obama because of his past or the color of his skin, but politics and interests are a different story," he said. "Don’t exaggerate hopes nor give people high expectations so that no one is disappointed or makes miscalculations," he added. "I don’t want to anticipate events, but logic dictates that we not bet on changes in injustice or believe that he will be more lenient or less unfair than his predecessor."

Nasrallah also paid tribute to fallen resistance fighters "with great pride," thanking them for their "efforts and struggle."

The Daily Star, with AFP


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