Hezbollah: Alliances hurt Arab regimes



-- The leader of the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon says that Arab regimes have been confronted by popular protest because of their alliances with the United States and Israel.

In a televised address carried by Hezbollah's station al Manar, Hassan Nasrallah said those regimes had lost the support and respect of their own people.

Hezbollah -- a Shi'ite movement -- has often criticized the largely Sunni-led governments in the Arab world. But Nasrallah's language Monday came close to promoting their overthrow.

The Hezbollah leader said he had not spoken before about the situation in Egypt because he did not want to be accused of meddling in Egypt's affairs.

In a taunting reference to the Mubarak government's claim that Hezbollah has been active in Egypt, Nasrallah said the militia's friends and supporters there had recommended it should not speak up about the situation.

Nasrallah's comments come as the people of Lebanon wait anxiously for the formation of a new government.

The Cabinet led by Saad Hariri was brought down last month, and Hezbollah has emerged as the most powerful force in a possible new government. At the same time, tension is growing over the unveiling of indictments said to connect members of Hezbollah with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Saad's father, in 2005.

Hezbollah has turned on the U.N. Special Tribunal on Lebanon that is investigating the assassination, describing it as a tool of Israel and the United States.

Saad Hariri says his party won't join the new government without guarantees it will respect indictments handed down by the tribunal.

Positions are hardening ahead of commemorations of the sixth anniversary of Rafik Hariri's death on February 14.

The daunting task of reconciliation has fallen to Najib Mikati -- a billionaire Sunni businessman involved in telecommunications, construction and other businesses. He has said he wants to form a national unity government -- and is seeking to accommodate Sunnis, Shi'ites and Christians in government as he negotiates the bewildering alliances between Lebanon's many parties.

Some Lebanese politicians, notably the veteran Nabih Berri, a Shiite, are talking optimistically about a new government being formed within a week. Others foresee a much longer period of wrangling just as Lebanon awaits the publication of the tribunal's indictments, which for now are sealed.

Lebanon's old divisions -- Christian against Sunni against Shiite -- are now more complex. Some Christian families, notably the Gemayels and their Kataeb party, are allied with the Sunni Hariri's party and want to see Hezbollah's wings clipped. Besides its political strength, Hezbollah's militia numbers thousands of well-trained fighters and tens of thousands of rockets prepared for war with Israel.

But another prominent Christian, Michel Aoun, is allied with the Shiite Hezbollah. And Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the minority Druze community, has deserted Hariri for the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, even though Jumblat's father was killed by the Syrians.

Aoun was brutally honest about his choice: "We have the choice of stability at the price of justice by going with Hezbollah." In other words, the publication of the indictments and any attempt to follow through with arrests would only destabilize Lebanon.

Many view Lebanon as an emerging battleground between Iran and Syria on the one hand and pro-Western forces on the other.