It was disorienting to see Hezbollah supporters flooding Beirut last week with Leb-anese flags and signs reading: “No to foreign interference.” The convoluted symbols carried a clear message: Hez-bollah and its 20,000-strong militia will not be excluded from a Syria-free Lebanese democracy. But to be a real political party, Hezbollah has to confirm that it intends to engage exclusively in peaceful politics. Refraining from all paramilitary activities would be a good first step toward proving that Hezbollah can truly transform itself from an armed Islamist terrorist organisation and engage in Leb-anon’s future as an independent political force.

For the US and France, which have been at the centre of the world’s response to the Lebanese crisis, the right course for now is to separate two problems. That means focusing on the part of the UN Security Council resolution on Lebanon that demands Syria’s withdrawal, and holding off for a short time on the part that calls for Hezbollah to disarm. The Bush administration has wisely, albeit reluctantly, agreed to go along with France and the UN on this course. Sheik Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, will portray any weakening of Western pressure as a victory, and for that reason France and the UN must make it clear that Hezbollah will eventually have to disarm although that remains a long shot. — The New York Times