Lebanon PM Saad Hariri puts resignation on hold

Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri puts resignation on hold

Beirut (Pakistan Press  Club)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Wednesday he was putting his resignation on hold, more than two weeks after he shocked the country by saying he was stepping down.

Speaking hours after he returned to Beirut, Hariri said he had accepted President Michel Aoun’s wish for him to suspend his resignation to allow for more consultations on the reasons behind the move.

Hariri announced he was standing down on November 4 while in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, saying he feared his life was in danger. Lebanon said it could not accept his resignation until he returned to the country.

Aoun said at the time Hariri was being held against his will in Riyadh — a claim Hariri denied — and speculation swirled in Lebanon that he was being held hostage.

Lebanon Prime Minister ,Saad Hariri

Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri

Hariri arrives at the airport in Beirut late Tuesday.

Hariri finally returned to Beirut late Tuesday, where his first stop was the grave of his slain father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

On Wednesday he attended an Independence Day military parade in Beirut alongside the President before meeting with Aoun at the presidential palace.

Hariri later tweeted: “Our beloved nation requires at this precise moment in its life exceptional effort from everyone, in order to protect it as it faces danger and challenges. These efforts start with an adherence to a policy of neutrality with regards to everything that hurts internal stability and our brotherly relations with the Arabs.”

Hariri, a Sunni politician, said he looked forward to “a genuine partnership of all political forces” that would put Lebanon’s interests first, keep the country together and help to rebuild the state.

The political crisis has stoked fears of conflict between the Saudi-backed government faction and Hezbollah, a powerful Iranian-backed Shia militant group whose political wing is the most powerful bloc in Lebanon’s fractured coalition government.


Supporters’ joy and fears

Hariri’s next stop Wednesday was at his political headquarters in Beirut, where loyal supporters had gathered amid music and dancing to welcome him back.

Hundreds of men, women and children waved the blue party flags of Hariri’s Future Movement, as others held Lebanese or Saudi flags aloft.

Addressing the cheering throng, Hariri gave a rousing speech before venturing into the crowd to shake people’s hands.

“We will stay together and we will continue together, so we can be the defensive line for Lebanon, its stability and its Arab identity,” he said.

“I can’t tell you the joy we felt when we heard him say the words ‘put on hold.’ His existence in itself is security,” Manar Aaqoub, a 26-year-old banker, told CNN before Hariri’s arrival at the gathering.

“There’s a major hope that he’ll stay,” she added. “A country without Saad is no country. There would have been a great sadness if he had resigned.”

Maher Hussein, 23, a handyman, said: “Saad Hariri holds the balance in Lebanon. If he resigns, the country explodes and goes to the abyss. We don’t recognize anyone else for Sunni leadership except for Saad. No Saad, no government.”

However, Ahmad Shadi, 28, who heads a local political office for Hariri’s party, voiced doubts that Hariri would suspend his resignation for long, and speculated that he would leave Lebanon again in the coming days.

“He’s not staying. He’s trying to calm the country down for now,” Shadi said. “We want him to stay but he has something else in mind. He has conditions to offer.”

Shadi added that he was “ready to pick up arms” if needed. “I support a war in Lebanon if Hezbollah doesn’t comply with the conditions of the Arab countries, so that the balance of power in this country changes,” he said.

Asked his view on the latest developments, engineer Mohamad Majzoub, 64, said it was up to Hariri to judge what to do. “No one knows as much he knows. I trust him 100 percent,” he said.

“Maybe we need a big shock in order to get rid of the problems we have of some certain parties holding arms outside of the government, meaning Hezbollah.”

Lebanon’s Saad al-Hariri on Wednesday shelved his decision to resign as prime minister at the request of President Michel Aoun

Lebanon’s Saad al-Hariri on Wednesday shelved his decision to resign as prime minister at the request of President Michel Aoun, easing a crisis that had deepened tensions in the Middle East.


Hariri made his announcement after returning to Beirut for the first time since he quit abruptly on Nov 4 in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia. Top Lebanese officials have said Riyadh forced him to quit and held him in the kingdom. Riyadh and Hariri deny this.


At the presidential palace near Beirut, Hariri said he hoped his move would lead to “a responsible dialogue… that deals with divisive issues and their repercussions on Lebanon’s relations with Arab brothers”.


Hariri said all Lebanese sides must commit to keeping the country out of regional conflicts, a reference to the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement whose regional military role has greatly alarmed Saudi Arabia.


“I presented today my resignation to President Aoun and he urged me to wait before offering it and to hold onto it for more dialogue about its reasons and political background, and I showed responsiveness,” he said in a televised statement.


The resignation had shocked even Hariri’s aides. He returned to Lebanon late on Tuesday night after French intervention.


Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, had refused to accept the resignation because it happened in “mysterious circumstances” abroad. He had called Hariri a hostage in Riyadh.


Hariri appeared to express relief that Aoun had not accepted the resignation straightaway. He thanked the president for respecting constitutional norms and “his rejection of departing from them under any circumstances”.


The resignation took Lebanon to the forefront of the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and raised concerns of a protracted crisis.


Hundreds of Hariri supporters packed the streets near his house in central Beirut, waving the blue flag of his Future Movement political party. The Sunni leader told them he would “stay with (them)… to be a line of defence for Lebanon, Lebanon’s stability and Leb­anon’s Arabism”.

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