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News > World

Hezbollah Blasts Lebanon Prime Minister's Resignation as Saudi-Dictated Move

  • Left to right: Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Saad al-Hariri, Mohammed bin Salman

    Left to right: Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Saad al-Hariri, Mohammed bin Salman | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 November 2017

Hezbollah's leader accused Hariri of reading a Saudi-written statement while speculation grows about his possible detention in Riyadh.

Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has blamed Saudi Arabia for Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's abrupt resignation from office, accusing the Gulf Arab monarchy of taking part in an unprecedented intervention into Lebanon's internal affairs.

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In a televised address, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said there should be no political escalation in response to Hariri's declaration on Saturday.

"It was not his intention, not his wish and not his decision to quit," Nasrallah said.

“The shape of the resignation proves that Hariri was forced to do so and that the resignation was a Saudi decision,” he added, noting that such a move is a blatant violation of Lebanon's sovereignty.

The comments come in response to a pre-recorded speech broadcast on Saudi-owned Al-Arabiyah where Hariri, speaking from Riyadh, claimed that there was a plot to kill him and accused Hezbollah and its Iranian allies of sowing discord and chaos in the Middle East.

"Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq," Hariri said. "I want to tell Iran and its followers that it will lose in its interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries."

Hariri's decision to step down came as a shock to his political allies and even his aides, and toppled a short-lived coalition government that included Hezbollah. The move came days after Saudi Arabia demanded that Lebanon move against the popular Shia party, which is well-represented in parliament and on the ministerial level.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Christian from the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement, will not accept Hariri's resignation until he returns to Lebanon to explain his reasons, palace sources said on Sunday. Aoun has confirmed that he received a phone call from Hariri confirming that he stepped down.

"Hariri’s experiment to ally with Aoun to constrain Hezbollah unsurprisingly coming to an end. Lebanon moving toward the unknown," tweeted Emile Hokayem, a regional analyst at the Institute for Strategic Studies.

“The optics are terrible — for Hariri to resign from Riyadh, imagine how his audience (in Lebanon) feels watching that,” he added.

Nasrallah said he would not comment on the accusations leveled against Hezbollah by Hariri, describing his resignation announcement as a wholly Saudi-drafted statement.

“We, the Lebanese know each side’s rhetoric, and the statement read by Hariri in the video represents the Saudi rhetoric and not that of Hariri,” Nasrallah added.

"We will not comment or discuss the political content of the (Hariri) statement, although the content was cruel and contains big and dangerous accusations, myself and Hezbollah will not discuss the content because we believe it was written by Saudi," Nasrallah said.

Saudi media have published reports of a plot to assassinate Hariri in recent days, but all of Lebanon's main security branches have said they have no information about such a plot.

A Saudi minister said on Saturday that Hariri's personal security detail had "confirmed information" about the plot. Thamer al-Sabhan said in an interview with a Lebanese TV station on Saturday that there were "threats against the prime minister and the kingdom is keen for his security".

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Iranian officials denounced the resignation, calling it a Saudi design to create unrest in Lebanon. Saudi-Iranian ties have plunged amid mutual charges that the two states support opposing sides in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, among other locales. Iran has backed the Syrian Army alongside Russia and Hezbollah in a months-long campaign to stamp out the Islamic State group.

"Hariri's resignation was coordinated with US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's (Crown Prince) Mohammad bin Salman," Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Sheikholeslam said, according to Iran's Fars News Agency.

"The resignation was aimed at creating tension in Lebanon and the region. This resignation was also meant to compensate the U.S. for its failures after the defeat of the Daesh (Islamic State group)."

News of the massive Saudi “anti-corruption” purge targeting Crown Prince Mohammed's opponents fueled speculation in Lebanon that Hariri, a Saudi national, was a target. Nasrallah said "there was legitimate concern", asking if Hariri had anything to do "with this internal struggle between the princes" and noting that Lebanese “have to know the reasons behind the resignation in Saudi Arabia.”

"I call on the Lebanese government to guarantee Saad Hariri's safe return to the country and I emphasize that he has been detained and he was interrogated after his friend (Khalid) al-Tuwaijri (Chief of the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia under King Abdullah) was arrested," former Lebanese minister Wiam Wahhab said, according to Bahrain's al-Wasat newspaper.

Saudi Oger, the construction firm owned by the Hariri family, has faced a multibillion-dollar debt restructuring. The company was hit by a decline in oil prices led to sharp state spending cuts in the kingdom.

Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat cited unnamed sources close to Hariri as speculating that he would probably remain outside Lebanon because of the security threat against him.

On Sunday, Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on its citizens to immediately leave Lebanon “for their safety, and to avoid any risks they may be exposed (to) as a result of these developments," according to a statement.

“The Saudi regime seeks to change Lebanon’s position, identity and role in the (axis of) resistance, in a bid to be part of the Saudi axis which seeks normalization with the Zionist entity and attack Yemen, Bahran and Syria,” said Sheikh Nabil Qawouq, a senior member of Hezbollah’s Central Council.

“Saudi Arabia through targeting resistance is engaging itself in a quagmire which the US and Zionist entity had failed to get out of,” he added.

“May God protect Lebanon from Saudi’s uncalculated adventures.”

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