Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati described the powerful Hezbollah, whose backing was key to his nomination, as a “tumor,” in a 2008 diplomatic cable that was produced by the United States. The cable was revealed by a Lebanese daily on Tuesday.
The billionaire businessman, who was appointed premier in January, is quoted as telling US officials that the Iranian and Syrian-backed militant party was a “tumor that must be removed,” according to the Arabic-language Al-Jamahiriya.
The newspaper was citing a WikiLeaks cable filed by the US embassy in Lebanon on January 12, 2008.
“Mr. Mikati, speaking as a ‘statesman,’ argued Lebanon could not survive with a Hezbollah mini-state,” according to the cable.
“Regardless of his personal views on the group, Mr. Mikati said he was expecting Hezbollah to bring Lebanon to a ‘sad ending,’” it added.
“He assessed that Hezbollah was just like a tumor that, whether benign or malignant, must be removed,” the cable said.
Mr. Mikati’s office had no immediate reaction on Tuesday concerning the WikiLeaks cable.
Mr. Mikati’s criticism of Hezbollah surfaces at a sensitive time as he struggles to form a government amid bitter political rivalry in Lebanon.
Hezbollah toppled the Western-backed government of caretaker premier Saad Hariri in January 2011 over his refusal to disavow a United Nations backed court probing the 2005 assassination of his father, ex-premier Rafik Hariri.
The Netherlands-based tribunal is expected to indict members of the Shiite group in the case.
The appointment of a Hezbollah-backed premier has sparked fears within the international community, notably Israel, of Iran gaining further influence in Lebanon and has prompted comparisons with Gaza, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas. Iran and Hezbollah are known to be very close politically and ideologically.
But Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed such claims, saying that his coalition would seek to include former Prime Minister Hariri’s camp in the new government.
Mr. Hariri, however, has ruled out joining a government headed by a premier appointed by Hezbollah and beholden to it.
(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at: email@example.com)