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Arf And Hezbollah Join Forces

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ARF in Lebanon - "We also believe in resistance and thus will support Hezbollah in elections"

According to a BBC report dated April 16, the ARF in Lebanon has stated that it will back the Hezbollah-led alliance in upcoming parliamentary elections.

The vote of the 150,000-strong Armenian community may sway the outcome of the bitter and close race between the pro-Western government and the opposition led by Hezbollah, a Shia group backed by Syria and Iran.

In Lebanon's confessional political system, Armenians - like other major religious and ethnic communities, have an assigned number of seats in parliament. For years, these seven seats were always won by the Tashnak Party.

But in 2000, a new law backed by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri redrew the electoral map of Beirut, dividing the Armenian neighbourhoods among districts with Sunni Muslim majorities. As a result the Tashnak party lost seats to lesser-known Armenians who supported the Sunni Muslim prime minister.

"We were forced to go to the opposition," says Tashnak MP Hagop Pakradounian. "We simply cannot trust the government anymore."

For the Tashnak party and its supporters, the June election is a chance to re-establish its parliamentary foothold. Tashnak MP Hagop Pakradounian argues that his Christian constituency has plenty in common with the radical Shia movement, with its powerful armed militant wing, known as the Islamic Resistance.

"We, as Armenians, are also against oppression, against occupation," he says. "Hezbollah was set up to fight Israel, and the occupation. We too know what it's like to have your land occupied"

Not everyone agrees - an editorial in one of Beirut's newspapers recently warned the Armenian community to be "prudent with their choices", and to examine the consequences of "any breach of their historical neutrality".

Anjar itself is one potential example of how such alliance with Hezbollah could backfire.It is surrounded by Sunni Muslim villages and some think there is a danger these could turn against the Armenians if they help the Shia Muslim bloc get into government.

But the main Armenian party is adamant about the choice it has made.

"In politics, there are priorities," says Mr Pakradounian. "Our priority is to be independent as a community, because that is the only way for us to keep our identity and our heritage," he says.

"Today, it's Hezbollah that makes us feel safe, and we believe that its Hezbollah that can help us protect our identity," he says.


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