Lebanese PM resigns during trip to Saudi Arabia

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was in danger.

In a televised address from Riyadh, Hariri said he feared an assassination plot and said the atmosphere in the country felt similar to the period before his father, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005. Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia for the assassination by a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague.

Hariri blamed Iran for what he said was their meddling in the region, causing “devastation and chaos”. He said Iran is “driven by a deep hatred for the Arab nation and strong desire to destroy it and control it, and unfortunately it has found among our fellow countrymen those who put their hands in its hands”.

Hariri’s coalition, which took office last year, included most of Lebanon’s main political parties, including Hezbollah, which Hariri claimed “was able in past decades to impose a status quo in Lebanon through its weapons directed at the chests of Syrians and Lebanese”.

Speaking on Sunday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said: “It is clear that the resignation was a Saudi decision that was imposed on Prime Minister Hariri. It was not his intention, not his wish and not his decision.”

Speaking in London, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hariri’s resignation should be a “wake-up call to the international community to take action against the Iranian aggression”. The Prime Minister said Iran aims “to turn Syria into a second Lebanon. This aggression endangers not only Israel but the entire Middle East. The international community needs to unite and confront this aggression”.

An official at the US State Department said it was following the situation closely and noted that Hariri had been a “strong partner in building strong national state institutions and in the war on terror”.

The Lebanese constitution divides the top political positions to reflect the country’s ethnic composition  – the President is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shi’ite Muslim.