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Hezbollah warns Lebanon in delicate stage, calls for speedy election

Nasrallah says next Lebanese president should back, rather than 'backstab,' Hezbollah

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Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned on Sunday that Lebanon had entered a critical stage after former President Michel Sleiman left office and called for a successor who would back, rather than “backstab,” the militia.

During a televised speech in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbeil on the occasion of Liberation Day, an annual festival celebrating Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Nasrallah also warned that hard-line foreign fighters in Syria would represent a global threat on their return home.

“Starting today, we have entered a very critical phase in Lebanon which we should deal with in a calm manner to preserve civil peace and stability,” Nasrallah said.

Sleiman ended his six-year term as president Saturday, leaving the country without a head of state after lawmakers from rival political camps failed on several occasions to elect his successor.

“What is important is to exert all efforts to shorten the period of time [of the presidential vacuum] and have an elected president as soon as possible, rather than observe and wait for regional developments,” Nasrallah said.

He also slammed MPs from the Western-backed March 14 camp, accusing them of putting forward Lebanese Forces chief as a candidate for the post only to thwart his ally MP Michel Aoun’s chances of becoming president.

The Hezbollah chief also accused his political rivals of seeking to extend Sleiman’s term.

In the final months of his term, Sleiman frequently criticized Hezbollah for sending fighters to Syria to back President Bashar al-Assad who has been battling rebels seeking his ouster.

Hezbollah also shunned Sleiman’s calls for resuming National Dialogue sessions to resolve the thorny issue of the party’s arsenal.

Nasrallah said his group would only back a president who supported his party.

“We want a president who does not conspire against the resistance: a president who does not stab the resistance in the back,” he said.

“We don’t want a president to protect the resistance. The resistance in Lebanon is the one that protects the state, the people and the sovereignty.”

The post of president is coveted by the country’s Maronite Christian community, the sect that the head of the state must be chosen from according to Lebanon’s National Pact.

Turning to the situation in Syria, Nasrallah accused European countries of easing the flight of extremist fighters into Lebanon’s neighbor to fight Assad and warned that the fighters would pose a risk to their home countries upon their return.

Thousands of foreign fighters have poured into Syria, mostly in Al-Qaeda inspired groups. Most are from the region, but smaller numbers hold European citizenship.

He also praised Syria's upcoming presidential election and accused rebels of trying to disrupt the vote.

(With AP)