Lebanese prime minister suggests he fears for his life, resigns

Lebanese prime minister suggests he fears for his life, resigns

Lebanese prime minister suggests he fears for his life, resigns

BEIRUT-Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post in a televised address from the Saudi capital Saturday, accusing Hezbollah of taking the country hostage, in a surprise move that plunged the nation into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions.

In comments directed at Iran, he said the Arab world would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it".

Auon's election was made possible after Hariri endorsed him for president, based on an understanding that Aoun would then appoint Hariri as prime minister.

An official at the US State Department said it was following the situation closely and noted that Hariri had been a "strong partner in building strong national state institutions and in the war on terror". We reject any weapons outside the legitimate authority of the Lebanese state.

After his father's death, Hariri went on to the Future bloc (al-Mustaqbal), which draws its support mainly from the country's Sunni population, and which later formed alliances with other parties from across Lebanon's communal divide.

In this file photo from 2015, people stand in front of an image of Rafik al-Hariri as they mark the 10th anniversary of the former prime minister's assassination near his grave in downtown Beirut.

In a pointed speech, Hariri suggested that he feared for his life and said the atmosphere in Lebanon is similar to the one that existed before his father, the late prime minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

Hezbollah members have been accused over the 2005 assassination in a massive auto bomb blast of Rafik Hariri, the dominant figure in Lebanon's post-war political landscape. A United Nations-backed tribunal has charged five Hezbollah members over the killing.

Hariri's speech was widely broadcast on local television stations.

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

In a statement, the presidential office said Aoun was informed by Hariri in a phone call of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Hariri's return to Lebanon to clarify the circumstances of his resignation.

He accused Tehran of "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".

He said Hariri's move could start "a cold war in Lebanon that could escalate into a civil war" or even a regional offensive on Hezbollah.

"The Saudi Arabia-Iranian rivalry now is going to play out on Lebanon's streets in the next few days and next few weeks". Afterwards, Velayati described Hariri's coalition as "a victory" and "great success".

"Lebanon is too small and vulnerable to bear the economic and political burden that comes with this resignation", he said on social media.

"We can not afford to fight the Iranians from Lebanon", he told Reuters, advocating an approach of compromise with Hezbollah in Lebanon while waiting for regional circumstances to allow Saudi-Iranian dialogue.

The younger Hariri's November 2017 resignation, which came after just 11 months in power, ended his second stint as prime minister, a role set aside exclusively for members of Lebanon's Sunni community.

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