Tens of thousands of supporters of Lebanon’s toppled premier Saad al-Hariri rallied in Beirut on Sunday, calling for the Shiite group Hezbollah which ousted him to put its weapons under state control. “We demand a state where nobody else carries arms,” Caretaker prime minister Saad Al-Hariri said. “We demand a state which has one sole army standing in the face of Israel.”
Lebanon’s national unity government collapsed Wednesday, January 12 after Cabinet members aligned with the Iranian backed militant group Hezbollah resigned.
It was prompted by a simmering dispute over the U.N. probe into the murder of Hariri’s father, who was also prime minister. Investigators are soon expected to issue indictments in the 2005 assassination, and Hezbollah militants are expected to be named.
Among Lebanon’s ethnic Armenian population’s traditional political parties; the Social Democrat Hunchak Party, and the ADL Ramgavar party are allied with the pro-western “March 14” coalition, as the ARF “Tashnak” party is allied with Hezbollah led “March 8” coalition.
Among the opposition ministers lead by Hezbollah, who submitted resignations was industry minister Abraham Dedeyan, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation “Tashnak” party, Dedeyan was one of two ministers representing the Lebanese-Armenian community in the now defunct coalition government.
The March 14 coalition has refused to join the cabinet of prime minister-designate Najib Mikati, appointed with Hezbollah’s backing. Hezbollah, which denies involvement in the Hariri killing, was the only party to keep its arms after the civil war ended in 1990 to defend Lebanon against Israel.
In May 2008, the group seized control of parts of Beirut after a government clamp-down on its communications networks. The March 14 coalition, which is backed by the US and Saudi Arabia, has since accused it of turning its weapons on the Lebanese.
Social Democrat Hunchakian MP Sebouh Kalpakian addressed the large crowd and highlighted “the continuation of the Cedar Revolution in which all sects of the Lebanese society have come to say no to guns and yes to the state.”
He continued to state his strong opposition against illegal guns and the absence of a strong Lebanese Nation state, arguing that in the past, this absence “has driven thousands of Lebanese, including half of the Armenians, to emigrate from Lebanon.” “We do not want, and we won’t tolerate the other half to emigrate today because some want to weaken the state,” he added.
“Here we are, the Armenian parties in March 14 forces, saying no to weapons and yes to the state,” he said.
Mr. Kalpakian invited the March 8 forces to “lower their arms and work again with their countrymen to build a state”, before hammering: “If you want to point your guns in the direction of Ashrafiyeh and Tarik Jedideh, we’ll tell you a thousand times no. The enemy does not reside in Koraytem at Maarab or Bickfaya. The MP went on to say that the “weapons of the ‘Resistance’ began to undermine the image of Lebanon and putting the country in a situation of confrontation with the international community.
Kalpakian concluded by extending his hand to the Hezbollah-led alliance, saying: “Remove your black shirts and let us build a nation together with the red and white colors (of the Lebanese flag) with the Cedar” in the middle.