Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Premier resigns, plunging nation into uncertainty

Published:Sunday | November 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this photo released on Monday, October 30, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post in a televised address from the Saudi capital yesterday, accusing Hezbollah of taking the country hostage, in a surprise move that plunged the nation into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions.

In his resignation speech, Hariri fired a vicious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said that "Iran's arms in the region will be cut off."

"The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it," Hariri said, accusing Tehran of spreading chaos, strife and destruction throughout the region.

Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member coalition government that included members of the Shiite militant Hezbollah.

But it's been an uneasy partnership between Hariri, who heads a Sunni-led camp loyal to Saudi Arabia, and Hezbollah, which represents a camp loyal to Shiite Iran.

President Michel Aoun, who was elected in October 2016 after more than a two-year presidential vacuum, is a close ally of Hezbollah.

It was not immediately clear whether Hariri intended to return to Lebanon. 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.

Hariri's bombshell resignation - even close aides seemed unaware of the announcement - ushers in a stage of deep uncertainty and potential instability. It also throws into doubt parliamentary elections slated for early next year which have been repeatedly delayed.