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Hariri says Hezbollah must remain neutral

Lebanese President Michel Aoun meets with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (right), and Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Monday that the political and militant group Hezbollah must stop interfering in regional conflicts and accept a neutral policy to bring an end to Lebanon’s political crisis.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which forms part of the Lebanese government, is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and in Iraq against Islamic State militants.

Gulf monarchies have accused the Shi’ite group of also supporting the Houthi group in Yemen and of backing militants in Bahrain. Hezbollah denies any activity in Yemen or Bahrain.

Hariri’s main patron is Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional rival, which has also intervened in regional conflicts.

“I don’t want a political party in my government that interferes in Arab countries against other Arab countries,” Hariri said in an interview recorded on Monday with French broadcaster CNews.

“I am waiting for the neutrality which we agreed on in the government,” he said. “One can’t say one thing and do something else.”

Hariri shocked Lebanon on Nov 4 by resigning from his post in a statement from Saudi Arabia. His resignation, however, has not yet been accepted.

President Michel Aoun held talks on Monday with other Lebanese political leaders over the future of Hariri’s government but gave no sign whether they discussed Hariri’s demand that the country steer clear of regional turmoil.

“Lebanon cannot resolve a question like Hezbollah which is in Syria, Iraq, everywhere because of Iran. It is a regional political solution that needs to be done,” Hariri said.

“The interference of Iran affects us all. If we want a policy that is good for the region we shouldn’t be interfering.”

He said he was ready to stay on as prime minister if Hezbollah accepted to stick by the state policy of staying out of regional conflicts.

However, he said he would resign if Hezbollah did not keep to that, although consultations so far had been positive.

“I think in the interest of Lebanon, Hezbollah is carrying out a positive dialogue. They know we have to remain neutral in the region.”

He said that if this week’s consultations ended positively he would possibly modify the make-up of the government and added that he was open to elections before next year.

 

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