Hezbollah’s arms are illegitimate, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri declared today, revealing the divide between the ruling powers as the president has previously declared the group’s military wing vital to the country’s security.
The powerful arsenal wielded by Shia Hezbollah outside the state’s control has long been a subject of controversy, with several major political parties calling for the group’s disarmament, while others support it.
Hezbollah has become deeply embroiled in the war in Syria, where its forces are fighting in support of President Bashar Al-Assad.
The Lebanese state has adopted a policy of official neutrality towards the conflict. Al-Hariri said today that, despite sharp disputes over Hezbollah’s arms, “the consensus on the role of the army, legitimate forces and the state” protected Lebanon.
“We will not compromise on the fundamentals … our view of the Assad regime and its crimes, our stance towards the illegitimate arms and … Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria,” he said at a ceremony in central Beirut marking the 12th anniversary of his father’s assassination.
Last week, during an interview with the Egyptian channel CBC, Aoun said Hezbollah’s arms “do not contradict the state… and are an essential part of defending Lebanon.”
“As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for [Hezbollah’s] arsenal because it complements the army’s role,” he said.
Hezbollah, whose fighters played a major role in Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, backed Aoun’s election. In addition to its powerful military wing, the group wields strong political influence.
Rafik Al-Hariri was killed in a 2005 Beirut waterfront bombing that also killed 21 others, shaking the country and pushing his son Saad into politics.