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Mikati: I'm not Hezbollah's man

2011-01-25 22:16

Beirut - Lebanese prime minister designate Najib Mikati on Tuesday rejected attempts to cast him as "Hezbollah's man" and said the dispute over a UN tribunal that brought down his predecessor could only be resolved through dialogue.

"Don't prejudge me or my behaviour, please, especially the international community," the 55-year-old billionaire businessman told AFP in an interview at his Beirut home shortly after being appointed to form a new government.

"I say in all honesty that my nomination by Hezbollah does not mean I am bound by any of their political positions except as concerns the protection of the national resistance," he said, referring to the Shi'ite militant party's struggle against neighbouring Israel.

Mikati said he felt no shame in the fact that the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah had supported his appointment and wished outgoing premier Saad Hariri's Western-backed party had done the same.

"I say 'thank you to them', I respect them as I respect those who did not vote for me," he said. "Now I will work in the interest of all Lebanese.

"Let my actions speak for themselves."

A centrist who has good ties with Syria, Mikati recalled that in 2005, when he served briefly as premier, he had been labelled "a Syrian puppet" but was later recognised as a capable statesman.

"During my tenure... I did everything in the interest of Lebanon and everyone was surprised by what I achieved," the tall clean-cut bespectacled politician said.

Mikati said that the thorny issue of the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has been at the centre of a long-running standoff between Hezbollah and Hariri, would be tackled through dialogue.

"Stopping the tribunal today is no longer a Lebanese decision," he said. "Lebanon's cooperation with the tribunal is something else.

"So before (jumping to conclusions) we have to look at the file again, study it and if there is any issue of dispute, it will be solved through dialogue."

Hezbollah for months had been pressing Hariri to reject the tribunal which it believes will implicate party members in ex-premier Rafiq Hariri's 2005 murder.