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Lebanese PM Saad Hariri resigns citing Iranian meddling

Hariri, in office for less than a year, criticises Iran and Hezbollah for causing 'disorder and destruction' in region.

Lebanese PM Saad Hariri

Saad Hariri has announced his resignation as Lebanon's prime minister and implicitly blamed Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, for his decision.

In a televised speech on Saturday, he said he suspected there were covert plans to target his life, but he did not elaborate.

Hariri, who made the statement during a visit to Saudi Arabia, said Iran planted "disorder and destruction" in the country and meddled in the internal issues of Lebanon as well as other Arab countries.

Referring to Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, Hariri said, "Iran's arm ... has managed to impose a fait accompli on Lebanon through the power of its weapons" in the last few decades.

"They have built a state within a state," said Hariri from the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

"I say to Iran and its allies - you have lost in your efforts to meddle in the affairs of the Arab world," he continued, adding that the region "will rise again and the hands that you have wickedly extended into it will be cut off."

The leading Sunni politician has been in office for less than a year, but previously served as prime minister between 2009 and 2011.

Hariri assumed office as prime minister again in December 2016 in a power-sharing government headed by President Michel Aoun, a supporter of Hezbollah, whose members have been charged by the International Court of Justice with assassinating Hariri's father, Rafik, in a 2005 bombing.

The country spent two years in political deadlock without a president before Aoun's election in October 2016, after Hariri endorsed the latter, a move seen by some analysts as a sign of Iran's influence in Lebanon.

His resignation now casts doubt on Lebanon's political future.

Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's Druze and the Progressive Socialist Party, said Hariri's resignation could adversely affect the country.

He said it was the latest evidence of a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran and urged intensification of diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions.

"Lebanon is too small and vulnerable to bear the economic and political burden that comes with this resignation," Jumblatt said via social media. "I will continue to call for dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran."

Hezbollah factor

Reacting to the development, Hossein Sheikholeslam, Iran's foreign ministry official, said in a tweet: "Hariri's resignation was masterminded by #Trump & Saudi Crown Prince #MBS."

Imad Harb, a political analyst at the Arab Center in Washington, DC, said that for Hariri to make the announcement in Riyadh "basically means he can't have control over his government or his country.

"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.

"This has definitely affected Hariri's decision to resign, I have no doubt that maybe he is afraid for his life."

'Surprise coup'

Speaking from Beirut, Kamel Wazne, a Lebanese political analyst, said: "This is a surprise coup by all measures. Everything was fine within the country.

"There is an election coming up. Everybody is talking about planning for of the economic future of the country, and a call came from Saudi Arabia and everything changed.

"This comes in light of imminent American sanctions against Lebanon, certain threats coming from Israel and escalation by the Saudis.

"I think the prime minister probably caved in to the demands of the Saudis and he declared his resignation from Saudi Arabia. This does not bode very well for the stability of Lebanon."

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