Lebanon’s Hariri takes critical line
BEIRUT – Reuters
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Nov. 25 that he would not accept Iran-backed Hezbollah’s positions that “affect our Arab brothers or target the security and stability of their countries,” a statement from his press office said.
The statement did not specify which countries he meant.
Hariri announced his resignation from his post on Nov. 4 in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy and regional powerhouse locked in a confrontation with Shi’ite Iran.
Hezbollah is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Gulf monarchies have accused the Shi’ite group of also supporting the Houthi group in Yemen and of backing militants in Bahrain. Hezbollah denies any activity in Yemen or Bahrain.
Hariri’s resignation pitched Lebanon to the forefront of a regional power tussle this month between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs Hezbollah. The two regional powers back competing factions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
After returning to Lebanon this week, he shelved the decision on Nov. 22 at the request of President Michel Aoun, easing a crisis that had deepened tensions in the Middle East.
Following his announcement, made on Lebanon’s independence day, hundreds of Hariri supporters packed the streets near his house in central Beirut, waving the blue flag of his Future Movement political party.
On Nov. 25, he said that his decision to wait instead of officially resigning is to give a chance to discuss and look into demands that will make Lebanon neutral and allow it to enforce its “disassociation” policy.
“Disassociation” is widely understood in Lebanon to mean its policy of staying out of regional conflicts. The regional role played by the Hezbollah political and military movement has greatly alarmed Saudi Arabia, Hariri’s long-time ally.
On Nov. 25, Hezbollah’s International Relations Officer Ammar Moussawi said that the Shi’ite group is ready to reach understandings with “our partners in the country,” and that the group is open to real dialogue and cooperation with all, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA reported.
Moussawi added that Hariri’s resignation, which he said was done under coercion from Riyadh, was a spark that aimed to ignite Lebanon.
Top Lebanese Druze politician Walid Jumblatt on Nov. 25 called on Saudi Arabia to enter dialogue with Iran and said that the kingdom’s modernization plans could not work while Riyadh was engaged in a war in Yemen.