Lo­cal, in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ties wel­come Hariri’s in­ter­view

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Joseph Haboush

BEIRUT: Le­banese and in­ter­na­tional politi­cians wel­comed Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri’s first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since he an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion more than a week ago, de­spite the pre­mier’s con­tin­ued stay in Saudi Ara­bia.

Af­ter Hariri left the door open to with­draw­ing his res­ig­na­tion, the Fu­ture Move­ment praised his tele­vised ap­pear­ance and the po­si­tions he took dur­ing it.

The bloc is­sued a state­ment fol­low­ing a meet­ing voic­ing its “great com­fort” with Hariri’s an­nounce­ment that he would re­turn to Beirut “within days.”

The move­ment, which is headed by Hariri, also lauded his ap­pear­ance as that “of a true states­man, sim­i­lar to those great statesmen Le­banon has known.”

Read by MP Am­mar Houri, the bloc’s state­ment re­ported that “he drew a clear plan ... as to what is needed for Le­banon to exit the game of re­gional and in­ter­na­tional axes, es­pe­cially Le­banon’s com­mit­ment to the pol­icy of dis­so­ci­a­tion.” The bloc added that it re­jected Ira­nian in­ter­fer­ence in Le­banon and in Arab coun­tries’ do­mes­tic poli­cies.

Con­firm­ing its loy­alty to Hariri, the bloc said it was “fully sup­port­ive of the po­si­tions Hariri took, in­clud­ing calls for na­tional di­a­logue.”

Ear­lier Mon­day, Le­banese Forces leader Samir Geagea also ex­pressed a hope­ful at­ti­tude af­ter Hariri’s in­ter­view, say­ing: “It is still pos­si­ble to sal­vage the po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment if the gov­ern­ment com­mits it­self truly and ef­fec­tively to the pol­icy of dis­so­ci­a­tion, es­pe­cially in re­gards to Hezbol­lah’s with­drawal from Syria and the crises of the re­gion.”

Geagea has been one of the few politi­cians to have openly sup­ported Hariri’s res­ig­na­tion as op­posed to those who have called for the prime min­is­ter’s re­turn and hoped that he would re­think his de­ci­sion.

Kataeb Party leader MP Sami Ge­mayel said Mon­day that he hoped Hariri would swiftly re­turn to Beirut “in or­der to trans­late his be­liefs on Le­banese soil, be it con­sti­tu­tional steps or po­lit­i­cal ones.”

Ge­mayel added: “We hope he will make the de­ci­sions from Le­banon and not from any other place.”

The leader of the self-de­clared op­po­si­tion to Hariri’s Cab­i­net said the one thing that drew his at­ten­tion dur­ing Hariri’s in­ter­view Sun­day was the prime min­is­ter’s with­hold­ing of in­for­ma­tion.

“For us, the be­gin­ning is to know what this se­cret in­for­ma­tion is be­cause it con­cerns the fu­ture of all Le­banese peo­ple and we hope to find out all the cir­cum­stances,” Hariri said, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

Ge­mayel added that he sup­ported Hariri’s calls for a new po­lit­i­cal agree­ment “be­cause the old agree­ment turned over the na­tion to oth­ers” – mak­ing an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Hezbol­lah.

Ge­mayel said that one way to be­gin build­ing the na­tion was to fo­cus on dis­so­ci­at­ing Le­banon from crises in the Arab world.

Deny­ing that there were de­mands for Hezbol­lah to turn over its weapons “to­mor­row,” Ge­mayel said a road map needed to be laid out in or­der for the group to turn over its weapons to the state and “for the state to re­gain its sovereignty.”

The Kataeb Party leader said Le­banese peo­ple were “tired of liv­ing on a timer and be­ing afraid of to­mor­row and the fu­ture of their chil­dren.”

Mean­while, mem­bers of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity con­tin­ued to voice their sup­port for Le­banon and their ob­jec­tions to the coun­try be­ing turned into a ground for proxy wars.

Speak­ing to re­porters at the Euro­pean Union For­eign Af­fairs Coun­cil, Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son said his coun­try would work to counter some Ira­nian ac­tions that are dis­rupt­ing the re­gion.

“There will ob­vi­ously be dis­cus­sions on the Mid­dle East more widely, the sta­bil­ity of the re­gion and ev­ery­body wants to see, for in­stance, a sov­er­eign and in­de­pen­dent Le­banon.”

Qatar’s for­eign min­is­ter mean­while com­mented that the re­cent cri­sis in Le­banon was a “sen­si­tive” sit­u­a­tion, “es­pe­cially due to its many dif­fer­ent sides.”

Sheikh Mo­ham­mad bin Ab­delRah­man al-Thani said: “It is im­per­a­tive that there be no in­ter­fer­ence in [Le­banon’s] do­mes­tic af­fairs.”

Sep­a­rately, Cen­tral Bank Gov­er­nor Riad Salameh said Mon­day that ef­forts made by Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity had sta­bi­lized the cri­sis pre­cip­i­tated by Hariri’s res­ig­na­tion, but did not re­solve the prob­lem.

Speak­ing to CNBC, Salameh said that the ef­forts of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cials, and “the vi­sion of the out­go­ing prime min­is­ter,” had fallen short of end­ing the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval oc­ca­sioned by Hariri’s shock res­ig­na­tion an­nounce­ment, broad­cast from Riyadh on Nov. 4.

Salameh’s state­ments came fol­low­ing warn­ings is­sued by prom­i­nent credit rat­ing agen­cies over the last week that the tur­moil stem­ming from the prime min­is­ter’s res­ig­na­tion could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on Le­banon’s econ­omy.

Fitch Rat­ings said Fri­day that the res­ig­na­tion might strain the Le­banese bank­ing sys­tem.

“A pro­longed po­lit­i­cal cri­sis would again test the re­silience of de­posit growth and di­as­pora in­flows into the Le­banese bank­ing sys­tem, which are key to gov­ern­ment fund­ing,” the Fitch re­port said.

Moody’s In­vestors Ser­vice also noted Tues­day that Hariri’s sud­den res­ig­na­tion could have a ma­jor im­pact on the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic scene in Le­banon.

Hariri’s in­ter­view has dom­i­nated news­stands.

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