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Hezbollah promises Lebanon cooperation

  • Story Highlights
  • Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says Lebanon needs collaboration of everyone
  • Nasrallah praises election of Michel Sleiman as president after six months
  • Election comes after Hezbollah and government agreed power-sharing deal
  • Sleiman is considered a consensus president in the divided country
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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The fiery leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militant movement assured Lebanon on Monday that his movement will cooperate in the country's political life.

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Supporters carry posters of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

Hassan Nasrallah said: "We don't want to have control over Lebanon, or to have governance over Lebanon or to impose our ideas over the people of Lebanon, because we believe Lebanon to be a special and diverse country that needs the collaboration of everyone."

Nasrallah spoke a day after Lebanon's parliament elected Michel Sleiman the country's president after a six-month vacancy in the position.

Nasrallah, speaking at a packed stadium, told his followers: "I renew my appeal and invitation for a true national partnership with no eliminations or impositions. The national unity government is not the victory of the opposition against the pro-government. It is the victory of all Lebanese."

He said Sleiman's election "renews the hope amongst the Lebanese people to a new era and a new start."

"I must say that there are deep wounds from our side and theirs, we are both in front of two choices; either to expand the wounds and add salt to them or try to cure them for the sake of Lebanon and we prefer the second choice."

The parliament had tried 19 times to vote on a new president, but failed because of disagreements over how to share power in a new Cabinet.

Lebanon's Western-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition reached a deal last week aimed at ending an 18-month political crisis that pushed the country to the brink of civil war, and paved the way for Sleiman's election.

The agreement, reached in Doha, Qatar, calls for a consensus government in which the Cabinet would be comprised of 30 posts -- 16 for the majority, 11 for the Hezbollah-led opposition and three set aside for the president to nominate.

The seat allocation had been a key sticking point for the opposition, which wanted to ensure it had the power to veto major decisions. With 11 Cabinet posts, it will have that power.

In exchange for the veto power and a redistricting plan ahead of next year's elections, Hezbollah agreed to end its sit-in protest that has paralyzed downtown Beirut since late 2006.

In his speech, Sleiman expressed gratitude to Qatar and to the Arab League for helping broker the deal.

Sleiman was the consensus candidate, and is viewed as a neutral party by Lebanon's political factions. The nation's previous presidents have been seen as either pro-Syrian or pro-Western. In his 10 years as chief of the army, Sleiman also is believed to have unified the splintered military.

However, he inherits a nation grappling with divisions. Lebanon's elected, pro-Western government has long been locked in a power struggle with Hezbollah.

In public statements and demonstrations in recent years, Hezbollah threatened to use its power and popularity to oust the Sunni-led government, triggering fears of a new civil war that could further destabilize the volatile region.

The election helped end a political crisis that deteriorated into violence this month. That crisis was defused when the Lebanese government gave in to two key Hezbollah demands -- lifting a government ban of Hezbollah's telecommunications system and reinstating the chief of security at Beirut's airport.

"The performance of the opposition proved that it did not organize a coup, but only wanted the illegal government to withdraw its two decisions," Nasrallah said.

"I promise that the opposition's representation in the government will not be monopolized by Hezbollah, Amal and the Change and Reform bloc. We will give other opposition parties shares - and unfortunately we must speak of shares - even if it is at the expense of Hezbollah's shares."

Hezbollah has been linked to numerous terrorist attacks against U.S., Israeli, and other Western targets and the United States lists it as a terrorist organization. But many in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East -- particularly Shiites -- view Hezbollah militants as freedom fighters.

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