Hezbollah chief backs French initiative despite 'condescending' tone

Beirut (AFP) –


Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday said he backed a French initiative to rapidly form a government to lift Lebanon out of crisis, but urged a major change in tone.

France's President Emmanuel Macron has visited the former French protectorate twice since the deadly August 4 blast at Beirut's port -- that led the government to resign -- and has pushed for Lebanon's leaders to support a new premier in swiftly forming a fresh cabinet.

After prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib resigned on Saturday, Macron accused Lebanon's political leaders of "collective betrayal" and said he was "ashamed" of them.

Nasrallah, in a televised speech, said he objected to France's tone.

"We do not accept your accusation of our betrayal... We reject and condemn this condescending behaviour," he said.

"We still welcome the French initiative," he added.

Government formation can drag on for months in multi-confessional Lebanon, where a power-sharing agreement seeks to maintain a fragile balance between all sides.

This means in practice that all main political parties must agree on major decisions, including the makeup of any future cabinet even before it is submitted for parliamentary approval.

"We are ready for dialogue... with the French, all Lebanon's friends, and all political forces in Lebanon," Nasrallah added.

"But the intimidation of last month should not continue... We call for a review of the modus operandi and the language."

Nasrallah said that Hezbollah must be included in the government.

"We have to be in the government -- whether through party members or non-party members, this is up for discussion -- to protect the Resistance's back," he said.

Hezbollah refers to itself as the Resistance, in reference to its role in waging several wars against neighbouring Israel.

It is the only side not to have disarmed after the 1975-1990 civil war, but it is also a political party with seats in parliament.

Lebanon is mired in its worst economic crunch in decades, and still reeling from the deadly port blast that killed more than 190 people.