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Nasrallah blames Israel for Lebanon killings

Calls for rivals to agree on president

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah accused Israel of being behind the assassination of Lebanese politicians and urged feuding parties to agree on who should become president in order to end the country's crisis.

"Israel is the one who is carrying out the killings in Lebanon.
It wants to stir discord and internal fighting in Lebanon," he said at a rally Friday to commemorate Jerusalem Day in Beirut's southern suburbs.

The Western-backed ruling majority in Lebanon has blamed Syria for attacks against anti-Damascus Lebanese figures since October 2004. Syria, the main backer of the Hezbollah-led Lebanese opposition, denies the accusations.

Nasrallah further said that Israel has a sure interest in the assassinations because it is the prime beneficiary of any internal strife in Lebanon between factions opposed to Syrian influence and those who are friends of the Damascus regime like Hezbollah.

Anti-Syrian MP Antoine Ghanem was assassinated in Beirut last month, the eighth Damascus critic to be murdered in Lebanon since the February 2005 killing of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

"Israel is the one that does not want a consensus president and a government of national unity in Lebanon. Israel, backed by America, wants a president who would disarm the resistance," Nasrallah said.

The Shiite leader has rejected demands by U.N. resolutions to disarm his group, which has vowed to pursue a guerrilla campaign to force Israel out of the occupied Shebaa Farms territory.

Hezbollah fighters, backed by Syria and Iran, led the campaign that forced Israel to pull its troops out of a large swathe of territory in southern Lebanon in 2000, after 22 years of occupation.

After last year's fierce war with Israel, the Hezbollah-led opposition escalated its actions against the government of Prime
Minister Fuad Siniora, pulling its cabinet members and staging an ongoing street protest.

The two sides have been deadlocked over the choice of a replace for pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud, whose mandate expires next month.

"Either we agree on a consensus president or we open the door for the Lebanese people to choose the president directly," Nasrallah said.

"If we cannot agree on a consensus president ... the best way is for parliament to meet and amend the constitution for a single time to allow the Lebanese people to vote directly, without foreign interference."

Fears are running high that the deadlock over the presidency could lead to two rival governments, a grim reminder of the final years of the 1975-1990 civil war when two competing administrations battled for control.