BEIRUT – Lebanon's Sunni Muslim religious leaders warned Hezbollah on Sunday not to ignore their sect's opinion ahead of key parliamentary talks to pick a new prime minister.
The Shiite Hezbollah and their allies said they won't name caretaker prime minister Saad Hariri to form a new Cabinet during two days of consultations that begin Monday.
They have not publicly said whom they will name instead.
The clerics, led by Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, the Sunnis' spiritual leader in Lebanon, said after a meeting they support Hariri because he represents majority of Sunnis.
"We warn against ignoring the Sunni majority and the parliament majority," the leaders said in a statement. "We also warn against the dangers of an imposed government."
Ministers from Hezbollah and its allies toppled Hariri's government on Jan. 12 after walking out because of disagreements over a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri's father.
Sunday's announcement came two days after a potential kingmaker in Lebanese politics threw his support behind Hezbollah, giving the militant group a major boost. Walid Jumblatt, the influential leader of the Druse sect, refused to say exactly how many lawmakers are with him.
The support of at least 65 lawmakers is required to form a government in Lebanon's 128-seat Parliament. Hezbollah and its allies already claim 57 seats. Saad Hariri has 60.
The announcement is the latest twist in a political crisis pitting the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah against the western-backed Hariri, who said this week he will seek the premiership again.
Lebanon's crisis stems from a U.N. tribunal investigating Rafik Hariri's assassination. Many fear Hezbollah will react violently if its members, as is widely expected, are named in the court's sealed indictment. The indictment was filed last week but its contents likely will not be made public for weeks.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to speak about the latest political developments later Sunday.