Lebanon: Growing crisis between government and Hizbullah
The Lebanese government said on Tuesday it was launching a judicial probe into a telecommunication network which the Shiite movement Hizbullah had set up across the country with the alleged help of Iran. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters after a marathon cabinet meeting through the night that the network was illegal and the government would pursue the affair through the legal system.
Hizbullah insists the network is needed as part of its resistance struggle against Israel and for security purposes. "This network is part of our military arsenal and the council of ministers cannot deprive us of it or prevent us from defending the country, whether it pleases some or not," Hizbullah's deputy chief, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said on Monday.
Aridi, however, said the cabinet had rejected these assertions and planned to hand over to the Arab League documents on the case and on the suspected Iranian involvement.
According to AFP, the cabinet overnight also decided to reassign the head of security at the airport, Brigadier General Wafiq Shoukair, following allegations that he was close to Hizbullah. He was allegedly aware of surveillance cameras which the Shiite movement is said to have set up near Beirut airport to monitor the comings and goings of politicians and foreign officials. A judicial probe has also been launched into the airport case.
According to Aridi, Shoukair was being reassigned to the army, while "the government will pursue the issue of the cameras installed by Hezbollah to monitor the airport runway."
Sources told Nahar newspaper that Lebanese officials received "direct threats" from forces within the Hizbullah-led opposition warning them against messing with the Hizbullah network or with Shqeir's post. On its part, Al-Akhbar daily said Tuesday that Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government was pushing toward a conflagration in the politically divided country by removing Shoukair and tackling the issue of the telecommunication network.