Lebanon president says Hariri's government remains in place

13 November, 2017, 19:04 | Author: Eloise Marshall
  • Lebanese Offshore Oil Gas Licensing Round Continues

He is to depart from Beirut on Monday afternoon for the two-day trip. He singled out Yemen, where Saudi-led Arab forces are fighting against the Houthi movement which Riyadh says is backed by Iran.

Saudi-allied Hariri said in the interview he would return to Lebanon within days, and he held out the possibility he could rescind his resignation if Iran-backed Hezbollah agreed to stay out of regional conflicts such as Yemen.

The race turned into a political rally, with numerous runners calling for the return of Hariri, who has not publicly spoken since unexpectedly announcing his resignation.

He said his resignation was created to "cause a positive shock" in the country, warning against Iranian interference that was, he said, ruining relations with other Arab countries. "I warned many times but I did not get any response", Mr Hariri said.

He also repeatedly said he was ready to die for Lebanon - his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a vehicle bomb in Beirut in 2005 - but added that he didn't want his children to go through that kind of ordeal. Hariri's family lives in Riyadh.

Hezbollah has expanded its political role in the complex Lebanese coalition during Hariri's 11 months in office. A Saudi-led coalition has been at war with the Houthis since March 2015.

While Mr Hariri's speech may have been encouraging in so far as offering a way out of Lebanon's current political crisis, many observers remarked that he still appeared to be more a mouthpiece for Saudi policy rather than someone speaking on his own behalf.

His resignation is part of a much bigger geopolitical drama that is now unfolding in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Large billboards with pictures of Hariri rose overhead, and a local TV station showed an hour-long profile and interview with Hariri from a year ago.

"Whatever he chooses, we are with him". He said the Arab world would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it", language which one source close to him said was not typical of the Lebanese leader.

Joanne Hamza, a physical education teacher who wore a cap with a picture of Hariri on it, said he was missed at the race. All Lebanese, from all sects, are missing their leader.

The US and France have noted the diplomatic anomaly, expressing their support for Hariri and for Lebanon's sovereignty as tensions have risen between Beirut and Riyadh. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk tweeted that those acts did not reflect the "true feelings" of the people of Tripoli or Lebanon, and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

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