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March 14 Forces accuse rivals of preventing solution

March 14 Forces accuse rivals of preventing solution
By Maher Zeineddine
Daily Star correspondent
Tuesday, January 09, 2007

BEIRUT: Lebanon's pro-government forces accused "Hizbullah and its allies" in the opposition on Monday of hampering the government's efforts to resolve the crisis, adding that security forces would respond to the opposition's demonstrations. In response to the opposition's decision to move to "Phase 2" of its campaign to force Premier Fouad Siniora's Cabinet to step down, the March 14 Forces' follow-up committee met at the Progressive Socialist Party's headquarters in Beirut.

Former MP Fares Soueid told reporters that "in the event that the opposition's demonstrations hamper governmental and administrative work, then security and government authorities will respond."

In a statement afterward read by Soueid, the participants said that the only way to resolve the economic crisis was to agree on a reform plan and take advantage of Arab and international support.

The statement said Hizbullah and its allies were trying to "widen the scope of the demonstrations imposed on the Beirut Central District and spread it to other vital areas to paralyze the economy ... and force the Lebanese to succumb to the will of forces standing behind them."

The statement also attacked a call by the General Labor Confederation to hold a demonstration Tuesday near the Institute of Finance in protest against the Cabinet's reform plan for the Paris III donor conference.

The plan is to be forwarded to Paris III, scheduled for January 25, and includes tax reforms, as well as raising VAT rates and the full or partial sale of the mobile-phone sector by the second quarter of 2007.

"[The opposition] sent for the General Labor Confederation, the members of which were raised by the officers of the former Syrian security regime," the March 14 Forces said, adding that the GLC neither cared about the labor syndicates' concerns nor represented them.

The group's statement also alleged that the GLC was "a cover-up behind which Hizbullah and its allies operate in an effort to force Siniora's Cabinet to resign."

"The only way to resolve the financial, economic and social problems burdening the Lebanese since the period of Syrian tutelage and which deepened with the summer Israeli war, is agreeing on a reform plan that would enable Lebanon to benefit from unprecedented Arab and international support," the statement added.

The March 14 Forces also criticized the opposition for not "presenting any alternatives to resolve the country's socioeconomic problems."

The statement added that the pro-government forces "call on the Lebanese people to support the government and the economic recovery plan and to confront their plans aimed at impoverishing them."

It also urged all the Lebanese to "double your efforts at all public and private sectors in order to stress your rooted belonging to the nation and your rejection of plans targeting its sovereignty, security and economy."

Soueid added that the Paris III conference was the only means to overcome the repercussions of the summer war in 2006.

Siniora held a meeting late Monday night with ministers of his Cabinet which was still in progress when The Daily Star went to press. The meeting was held to discuss the current situation and the appropriate government response to the planned GLC strike Tuesday and the opposition's escalation of its campaign to force the government to share power or step aside.

Separately, PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt said Monday the Paris III conference "represents a new step of the achievements of Siniora's legitimate and constitutional Cabinet."

In remarks to the PSP-affiliated Al-Anbaa newspaper, he urged Speaker Nabih Berri to "assume his political and legislative responsibilities because he is the head of Parliament, which represents all the Lebanese."

Jumblatt said "Hizbullah's 'divine victory' has cost the Lebanese $15 billion and led to destruction of 100,000 homes."

The president of the Lebanese Forces executive committee, MP Samir Geagea, said the opposition's movements would not "yield any results but would deepen the crisis."

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Geagea said the opposition was "acting like a child who starts to rebel when things at home disturb him."

He added that the GLC was formed by the former Syrian security regime.

In a radio interview Monday Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said the GLC was formed of the "remains of the Syrian security regime in Lebanon." - With Naharnet