Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has warned Hezbollah against interfering in regional conflicts, saying he postponed his resignation to discuss ways to disassociate Lebanon from wars in neighbouring countries.
Speaking during a meeting with the Higher Islamic Council, the official body for the country’s Sunni Muslims, on Saturday, Hariri stressed that Lebanon was being targeted and that it risked being dragged into chaos.
“The postponement [of resignation] at the request of President Michel Aoun was to give an opportunity to discuss and negotiate our principal demands to make Lebanon neutral and keep it away from the conflicts and the wars in the region, and to implement the policy of disassociation … and commit to the Taif Agreement,” Hariri said in a statement released by the prime minister’s office.
“As we have previously announced on several occasions, we will not accept Hezbollah’s positions that affect our Arab brothers or target the security and stability of their countries,” he added.
A Sunni Muslim politician and longtime ally of Saudi Arabia, Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address on November 4, shortly after landing in Riyadh.
In that speech, Hariri blamed interference in Lebanon by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for his decision, adding that he feared an assassination attempt.
Hariri’s resignation plunged Lebanon into uncertainty, threatening the country’s fragile political stability and raising concerns over an open-ended crisis.
It also stoked fears of an escalation in the regional divide between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Lebanon on the front lines.
Officials in Lebanon said they would only accept Hariri’s resignation if he delivered it on Lebanese soil.
After more than two weeks, Hariri returned to Beirut via France and Egypt, and subsequently announced that he would temporarily refrain from stepping down at the behest of the country’s president.
Saudi Arabia, Hariri’s long-time political patron, is Iran’s arch foe in the region. Riyadh supports Syria’s armed opposition while Iran and Hezbollah both support Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Addressing the Islamic Council on Saturday, Hariri said: “The burdens placed on Dar al-Fatwa are huge. Your mission is to rationalise the religious discourse and educate the citizens to prevent the exploitation of some religious platforms for political objectives against the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese. Because we are the people of moderation and tolerance.
“We are targeted in the region and if we do not act wisely, we will drag the country into chaos,” Hariri said. “You are Dar al-Fatwa, and you have shown during the crisis that has passed that you are keen on national unity and preventing any division or sedition among the Lebanese.”