Lebanon PM quits over Iran interference

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Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri

Beirut — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation Saturday, citing Iran’s “grip” on the country and threats to his life.

“I announce my resignation from the post of prime minister,” he said in a televised address.

“I felt what was being covertly plotted to target my life,” Hariri said.

The two-time prime minister, whose father Rafik held the same position for years and was assassinated in 2005, said Iran and its powerful Lebanese Shiite ally Hezbollah were seeking hegemony in the region.

“Iran has a grip on the fate of the region’s countries... Hezbollah is Iran’s arm not just in Lebanon but in other Arab countries too,” he said.

“In recent years, Hezbollah has used the power of its weapons to impose a fait accompli,” he said, reading a speech from behind a desk.

Hariri said Hezbollah’s policies have put Lebanon “in the eye of the storm.”

“Hezbollah was able in past decades to impose a reality in Lebanon by force of arms directed at the chests of Syrians and Lebanese,” he said.

“I declare my resignation from the premiership of the Lebanese government, with the certainty that the will of the Lebanese is strong,” Hariri said.

“When I took office, I promised you that I would seek to unite the Lebanese, end political division and establish the principle of self-sufficiency, but I have been unable to do so. Despite my efforts, Iran continues to abuse Lebanon,” he said.

Hariri said Tehran was “sowing discord among the children of the same nation and creating a state within the state... to the extent that it gets the final say on how Lebanon’s affairs are run.”

“The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it,” Hariri said.

In his statement, Hariri said Iran was “losing in its interference in the affairs of the Arab world”, adding that Lebanon would “rise as it had done in the past” and “cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it”.

Hariri said in his speech that the political climate in Lebanon was reminiscent of that which prevailed before his father was killed.

The office of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a veteran Christian leader, issued a statement confirming Hariri had tendered his resignation.

“President Aoun is waiting for Hariri’s return to Beirut to enquire about the circumstances of his decision and decide on the next steps,” a statement said.

Walid Jumblatt, one of Lebanon’s political heavyweights and the country’s most prominent Druze leader, said Hariri’s resignation could adversely affect a country already under huge strain.

Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that included the Shiite militant Hezbollah. The government has largely succeeded in protecting the country from the effects of the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Earlier this week, Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer Al-Sabhan sharply criticized Hezbollah, calling for its “toppling” and promising “astonishing developments” in the coming days during an interview with the Lebanese TV station MTV.

Al-Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting earlier this week.

In tweets after meeting Hariri, Al-Sabhan described it as “long and fruitful meeting” that resulted in agreements over many issues that concern the Lebanese. “What’s coming is better, God willing,” Al-Sabhan tweeted on Tuesday.

In a series of tweets, Al-Sabhan criticized the Lebanese government for tolerating Hezbollah’s criticism of the Kingdom.

He earlier said that those who cooperate with Hezbollah must be “punished.” — Agencies


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