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Lebanese prime minister quits over death plot

05 November 2017

In a move that caught many by surprise, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while on a trip to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Hariri also lashed out at Iran and its ally Hezbollah, a Shi'ite militia operating in Lebanon for interfering in the affairs of Arab countries.

Hariri's "repetition of unreal and baseless accusations... against Iran show that the resignation is designed to create tensions in Lebanon and in the region", said Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi.

"We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri", he said in the broadcast from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

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The politician pointed out he "sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life", according to Reuters. 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 clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly. Saudi Arabia and Iran are on opposite ends of other regional conflicts such as Yemen and Iraq.

"The Saudi Arabia-Iranian rivalry now is going to play out on Lebanon's streets in the next few days and next few weeks".

Taking up the prime minister's office last year, Mr Hariri promised a "new era for Lebanon" after two years of political deadlock.

"Prime Minister Hariri has reached the stage where he is not able anymore to bear the pressure on Lebanon by Arab nations, due to the intervention of Iran", said Mohyeddine Awwad, sitting in a cafe where posters of Hariri hung. A UN-backed tribunal has charged five Hezbollah members over the killing.

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Hariri accused Hezbollah of using its weapons to impose a "fait accompli" in Lebanon.

"There is a real danger that the tensions between the Hariri-dominated faction and Hezbollah-dominated faction could easily escalate into an armed confrontation", said Gerges, who is chair of contemporary Middle Eastern studies at London School of Economics.

He said Hariri "probably caved in to the demands of the Saudis".

"Hezbollah has been in control of the Lebanese state for quite a while and now it's a supposed victory in Syria on the side of the Syrian regime", Harb said, referring to Hezbollah's role in fighting alongside forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has slowly taken back control over his country following a six-year civil war.

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Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting earlier this week.

Lebanese prime minister quits over death plot