Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in remarks published Thursday that he fears Hezbollah’s military role in regional conflicts will end up costing his country dearly.
But Hariri also stressed he was optimistic that a way to end the political paralysis gripping Lebanon following his Nov. 4 resignation is being worked out.
It is unclear what, if any, concessions Hezbollah would offer to ensure that Hariri remain in office, though Hezbollah officials have said they are keen on finding a political solution to the crisis.
Hariri said his resignation was meant to let the world know that Lebanon cannot tolerate the militant Hezbollah group’s meddling in the affairs of Gulf countries — a reference to Yemen, where the kingdom is fighting Shiite rebels. Hezbollah, an Iran ally, denies having a military role in warn-torn Yemen though it openly fights on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war. Saudi Arabia backs the opposition trying to unseat Assad.
Hariri spoke to the French magazine Paris Match. He is currently on a private visit to Paris and expected back in Beirut next week, according to his office.
“I wanted the world to understand that Lebanon can no longer tolerate the interferences of a party like Hezbollah in the affairs of the Gulf countries, where 300,000 Lebanese live,” Hariri said. “We must not pay for the actions of Hezbollah.”
He hinted that there were no plans to discuss the disarming of Hezbollah, saying the militant group has not used its weapons on Lebanese soil.
Hariri’s resignation, announced while he was in Riyadh, stunned the Lebanese and raised suspicions that it was orchestrated by Saudi Arabia, his main backer. He later returned to Lebanon on Nov. 21 and put the resignation on hold to allow for consultations.
In a tweet late Wednesday, Hariri said matters are moving “positively” and predicted that he may formally rescind his resignation next week.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting proxy wars in the Mideast. Hariri has demanded that Hezbollah remove itself from the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Days before Hariri’s return to Beirut, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters are returning from Iraq now that the Islamic State group has been defeated there. On a visit to Italy, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that Hezbollah’s fighters would return to Lebanon once the fight against IS is over.
In Syria, Hariri said the victory went to Russia and Iran, who had backed Assad. But to truly end the conflict in Syria, Assad “has to leave,” Hariri said. “The problem in Syria is Bashar Assad.”