Lebanese prime minister-designate Saad Hariri stressed on Tuesday Hezbollah will be part of the next cabinet "whether Israel likes it or not," as he called on the all parties to unite to form a coalition to face the country's challenges.
"The national unity government will include the (ruling) March 14 alliance, and I also want to assure the Israeli enemy that Hezbollah will be in this government whether it likes it or not because Lebanon's interests require all parties be involved in this cabinet," Hariri said at a Ramadan dinner at his residence.
Hariri said, including the threat of Israel, his country faced numerous social and economic challenges, which "no party can handle on its own."
The prime minister-designate, however, added that national unity “should not marginalize the principles of democracy and freedom.
Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reported that Hariri held talks Monday night with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's political assistant Hussein Khalil, who told Hariri his party supported the demands of the Free Patriotic Movement's leader Michel Aoun.
Hariri, son of slain billionaire ex-premier Rafik Hariri, was named prime minister on June 27 after his alliance defeated a Hezbollah-led coalition.
Tough negotiations have led to a deal on the number of ministers each political camp will have in Lebanon's 30-seat cabinet, with 15 going to Hariri's ruling alliance, 10 to the Hezbollah-led opposition and the president appointing five.
Challenge of Israel
In recent days, there has been an escalating war of words between Israel and Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war in 2006 that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon and 100 Israelis.
Earlier this month, Israel warned that the Lebanese government as a whole would be blamed for any attack from its territory if the Shiite militant group were part of the new government.
"If Hezbollah joins the government it will be clear that the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any attack coming from its territory against Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, which Nasrallah later dismissed as "psychological warfare."
But Netanyahu later downplayed prospects of a new conflict with Lebanon.