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Lebanon’s Hariri takes critical line on Hizbollah

Hizbollah says Shiite group is ready to reach understandings with ‘our partners in country’

By Reuters - Nov 26,2017 - Last updated at Nov 26,2017

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri greets his supporters during a press conference on his resignation at his residence in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday (Anadolu Agency photo)

BEIRUT — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri said on Saturday that he would not accept Iran-backed Hizbollah's positions that "affect our Arab brothers or target the security and stability of their countries", a statement from his press office said.

The statement did not specify which countries he meant.

Hariri announced his resignation from his post on November 4 in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia.

Hizbollah is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria. Gulf monarchies have accused the Shiite group of also supporting the Houthi group in Yemen and of backing militants in Bahrain. Hizbollah denies any activity in Yemen or Bahrain.

Hariri's resignation pitched Lebanon to the forefront of a regional power tussle this month between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs Hizbollah. The two regional powers back competing factions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

After returning to Lebanon this week, he shelved the decision on Wednesday at the request of President Michel Aoun, easing a crisis that had deepened tensions in the Middle East.

Following his announcement, made on Lebanon's independence day, hundreds of Hariri supporters packed the streets near his house in central Beirut, waving the blue flag of his Future Movement political party.

On Saturday, he said that his decision to wait instead of officially resigning is to give a chance to discuss and look into demands that will make Lebanon neutral and allow it to enforce its "disassociation" policy.

"Disassociation" is widely understood in Lebanon to mean its policy of staying out of regional conflicts. The regional role played by the Hizbollah political and military movement has greatly alarmed Saudi Arabia, Hariri's long-time ally.

On Saturday, Hizbollah's International Relations Officer Ammar Moussawi said that the Shiite group is ready to reach understandings with "our partners in the country", and that the group is open to real dialogue and cooperation with all, Lebanon's state news agency NNA reported.

Moussawi added that Hariri's resignation, which he said was done under coercion from Riyadh, was a spark that aimed to ignite Lebanon.

Top Lebanese Druze politician Walid Jumblatt on Saturday called on Saudi Arabia to enter dialogue with Iran and said that the kingdom's modernisation plans could not work while Riyadh was engaged in a war in Yemen.

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