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Hezbollah pledges Lebanese unity, says it won't be pressured

By the CNN Wire Staff
A Sunni Muslim cleric from the pro-Hezbollah Islamic Labour Front sprays his family's name on a banner supporting Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Saad Hariri (portrait) in Sidon on January 18.
A Sunni Muslim cleric from the pro-Hezbollah Islamic Labour Front sprays his family's name on a banner supporting Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Saad Hariri (portrait) in Sidon on January 18.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Movement's leader says Hezbollah will announce its pick for prime minister Monday
  • International tribunal expected to indict members of Shiite Muslim militant group
  • The Shiite leader says the world should respect majority rule
  • Hezbollah has won the support of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt
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(CNN) -- Hezbollah will announce its pick for a new prime minister Monday and won't be "pressured" by an international tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of a former premier, its leader said Sunday night.

Hassan Nasrallah sounded confident that caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose ruling coalition collapsed after Hezbollah's withdrawal two weeks ago, would be replaced in a new government. Speaking on Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station, Nasrallah pledged the movement's support for national unity and said the international community should offer a new leader the same respect they gave Hariri.

"If a candidate rises who is supported by the opposition, I hope people will respect the Lebanese majority," he said.

Hariri has stayed on as a caretaker prime minister at the request of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, and consultations on forming a new government are set to begin Monday.

"In the last few days, governments and states have said they respect Lebanon's legitimacy, that they respect the will of the majority of the Lebanese people, that they respect Lebanon's constitutional institutions," Nasrallah said. But if Hariri loses office, he asked, "Will we still hear the same words from them, or will we hear something else?"

Nasrallah floated the name of a former premier, Omar Karami, as a replacement during his speech, but said Karami has turned down his suggestion.

Hezbollah withdrew its support for Hariri's government earlier this month because of Hariri's cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The tribunal is expected to indict members of the Shiite Muslim militant group in connection with the 2005 killing of Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In the jockeying that has followed the collapse of Hariri's government, Hezbollah has won the support of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt -- a longtime kingmaker in Lebanon's fractious politics. Jumblatt said Friday that the tribunal "has gone off the course of justice to enter the political bazaar and the blackmail market."

The 11 parliamentary seats his Progressive Socialist Party holds in the 128-seat parliament could play a decisive role in a new coalition.

Nasrallah said he would withhold his views on the tribunal until it announces any decision, a move expected in six to 10 weeks. But he urged Hezbollah's domestic rivals not to use the pending decision "to pressure use to serve your political ends."

Under the peace agreement that ended Lebanon's 15-year civil war in 1990, Hezbollah's Iranian-backed militia is the only faction in Lebanon's fractious politics allowed to keep an armed wing. Clashes between the group and Lebanese authorities in 2008 brought the country to the brink of a new civil war.

The United States considers Hezbollah, which has close ties to Iran and Syria, to be a terrorist organization. The group is a political party and a major provider of social services in Lebanon, but also operates a militant wing.

CNN's Nada Husseini contributed to this report.

 
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