Lebanese PM resigns saying his life is in danger
Saad al-Hariri cited assassination plot and accused Iran and Hezbollah of sowing strife in Arab world
Lebanon’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri is seen at the governmental palace in Beirut, Lebanon on October 24th. Photograph: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters
His resignation thrusts Lebanon back into the frontline of Saudi-Iranian regional rivalry and seems likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions between Lebanese Sunni and Shia Muslims.
It also shatters a coalition government formed last year after years of political deadlock, and which was seen as representing a victory for Shia Hezbollah and Iran.
Mr Hariri, who is closely allied with Saudi Arabia, alleged in a televised broadcast that Hezbollah was “directing weapons” at Yemenis, Syrians and Lebanese and said the Arab world would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it”.
Mr Hariri’s coalition, which took office last year, grouped nearly all of Lebanon’s main political parties, including the his Future Movement and Hezbollah.
“We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of (his father the late prime minister) martyr Rafik al-Hariri. I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life,” Mr Hariri said.
Rafik al-Hariri was killed in a 2005 Beirut waterfront bomb attack that also killed 21 other people, shaking the country and pushing his son Saad into politics.
In a statement read from an undisclosed location, Mr Hariri said Hezbollah and Iran had brought Lebanon into the “eye of a storm” of international sanctions.
President Michel Aoun’s office said Mr Hariri had called him from “outside Lebanon” to inform him of his resignation.
Mr Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia on Friday after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, the top adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Afterwards, Mr Velayati described Mr Hariri’s coalition as “a victory” and “great success”.
A UN-backed tribunal charged five Hezbollah members over Rafik al-Hariri’s killing. Their trial in absentia at the Hague began in January 2014 and Hezbollah and the Syrian government, have both denied any involvement in the killing.
In his statement, Mr 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”.
Mr Hariri became premier late last year after a political deal that also brought Mr Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, to office as president.
Hezbollah’s close ties to Iran and its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in his war with rebels trying to overthrow him have been a major source of strife in neighbouring tiny Lebanon for years.
“Over previous decades, Hezbollah was able to impose a reality in Lebanon with the power of its weapons, which it claims is the (anti-Israel) resistance’s weapons, which are aimed at the chests of our Syrian and Yemeni brothers, not to mention the Lebanese,” Mr Hariri said.
He said the Lebanese people were suffering from Hezbollah’s interventions, both internally and at the level of their relationships with other Arab countries.
Mr Hariri has visited Saudi Arabia, a political foe of Iran and Hezbollah, twice in the past week, meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials.
Iran said on Saturday that Mr Hariri’s resignation Hariri would create tension in Lebanon and the region.
“The resigning Lebanese prime minister’s repetition of the unrealistic and unfounded accusations of the Zionists, Saudis and Americans against Iran is an indication that this resignation is a new scenario for creating tension in Lebanon and the region,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said in a statement published on the ministry website.
“But we believe that the resistant people of Lebanon will pass this stage easily.”
“The sudden resignation of Mr Hariri and his statement in another country is not only surprising and regrettable but is also an indication of his playing a game designed by those who want ill for the region, and the winner of this game is not Arabic or Muslim countries but the Zionists,” Mr Qassemi said. – Reuters