Lebanon PM Saad Al-Hariri resigns, cites threats to his life

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said he senses a ‘plot to target his life’ in his resignation statement. (Reuters)
Updated 04 November 2017
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Lebanon PM Saad Al-Hariri resigns, cites threats to his life

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday, taking the Lebanese people, especially the politicians, by surprise.
Al-Hariri accused Iran and Hezbollah of dominating Lebanon, adding: “We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik Al-Hariri. I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life.”
In the speech, which was broadcast by Lebanese TV channels, Al-Hariri told the Lebanese that the nation was “living under tragic circumstances caused by external interferences.”
He said that “groups that do not want anything good for you dominated you, supported from outside the borders. These groups sowed sedition among the people of one country, threatened the authority of the state, established a state within the state and ended up by controlling it and having the upper hand and the final say in the affairs of Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”
Al-Hariri attacked Iran directly, saying: “I refer explicitly and unequivocally to Iran, which sows sedition, devastation and destruction in any place it settles in, as proven by its interferences in the internal affairs of the Arab countries, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, driven by a deep hatred of the Arab nation and an overwhelming desire to destroy and control it.
“Unfortunately, it found among the sons of these countries some people who put their hands in its hand, openly declaring their loyalty to it, and their will to kidnap Lebanon, with the values and ideals it represents, from its Arab and international surrounding. I mean Hezbollah, the Iranian arm, not only in Lebanon but also in the Arab countries.”

Al-Hariri stressed that “Over the past decades, Hezbollah has unfortunately managed to impose a fait accompli in Lebanon by the force of its weapons, which it alleges is a resistance weapon. This weapon is directed to our Syrian and Yemeni brothers, in addition to the Lebanese. I do not need to list these interventions. 
“Their magnitude appears daily and we suffer from it, not only on the Lebanese internal level but also on the level of our relations with our Arab brethren, and the latest example of that is Hezbollah's cell in Kuwait. Lebanon and the great Lebanese people became in the eye of the storm and subjected to international condemnations and economic sanctions because of Iran and its arm, Hezbollah.
“We all read what the head of the Iranian regime pointed to,” Al-Hariri added, “that Iran controls the fate of the countries in the region and that Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, North Africa and the Arab Gulf cannot take any decisive step without Iran, and I responded to that at the time. I want to tell Iran and its followers that they are losing in their interferences in the Arab nation affairs.
“Our nation will rise just as it did before and the hands that want to harm it will be cut, and just as Bahrain and Yemen responded, each and every part of our precious nation will do the same and evil will go back to its sender.”
Al-Hariri noted that when he accepted the responsibility of being the prime minister, he was seeking “the unity of the Lebanese, to end political division and restore the sovereignty of the Lebanese people. This caused me harm and I did not reply, for the sake of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. But unfortunately, this pushed Iran and its allies toward more interference in our internal affairs, violation of the state authority and imposition of fait accompli.”
The resignation came as a shock to political parties in Lebanon.
In a statement, the Lebanese presidential office said that President Michel Aoun was informed by Al-Hariri in a phone call “from outside the country” of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Al-Hariri’s return to the country to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly. Aoun, who was supposed to start an official visit to Kuwait on Sunday, has postponed it.
Mustapha Allouch, a Lebanese politician and member of the Future Movement, told Arab News that the resignation of Al-Hariri was “a surprise but not strange,” adding that “the resignation was discussed long time ago as a choice.”
Allouch stressed that “the resignation is not just linked to the possibility of assassination, but also to the refusal of Hezbollah, which is  an Iranian-affiliated militia, to change over the years, despite all the settlements which Al-Hariri offered in the past few years.”
Allouch expected a “reshuffle of cards in the short run, and the situation depends on the way of confronting Hezbollah on the regional and international levels.”
Former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman tweeted: “We have entered a tunnel which requires all officials to close their ranks. Lebanon and its people deserve sacrifice.”
“Lebanon is too small and weak to bear the economic and political burden of the resignation,” said Walid Jumblatt, leader of the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party. “I will continue to be among those who call for dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran despite all difficulties.”
Antoine Zahra, the leader of the Lebanese Forces bloc in the Lebanese Parliament, believes that “Al-Hariri was politically and administratively embarrassed to the point of no return.” 
Zahra added that there has been “an accumulation of positions and attempts to lay hands on the general policies of the government as well as the Lebanese policies in order to annex Lebanon to the Iranian axis.”
Zahra said that the “crisis of forming the government will continue for months.”
Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, called upon all “officials, ministers, members of Parliament, and leaders in the movement to keep silent and refrain from commenting on Hariri's resignation at the moment.”
The resignation caused some concern about the value of the Lebanese pound. However, the Lebanese Minister of Economy, Raed Khoury, assured in a statement that there is “no fear on the Lebanese pound and that the financial, economic and security situation is stable.”
Khoury added that “Lebanon went through greater crises and preserved its stability.”


Iran arrests labor protest leader

Updated 9 min 41 sec ago
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Iran arrests labor protest leader

  • Esmail Bakhshi organized protests to object alleged criminal activities of the new owners of the sugar factory
  • Iranian state TV claims that Bakhshi and another activist have connections with European activists

TEHRAN: An Iranian labor protest leader has been arrested for the second time, state media reported Monday, after the judiciary denied his claim that he was tortured in custody late last year.
Esmail Bakhshi “was arrested last night in cooperation with security and law enforcement forces,” Mansour Mohammadi, the prosecutor general of Dezful, in Khuzestan province, told the judiciary’s news website Mizan Online.
Bakhshi was one of the organizers of weeks of protests at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory in the city of Shush in November and December, over unpaid wages and alleged criminal activity by new private owners.
State TV on Saturday broadcast a program claiming that Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian, another activist who supported the Haft Tapeh strikers, had connections with Europe-based activists who “aim to topple the state.”
The program featured footage of Bakhshi and Gholian sitting behind desks in front of red and blue curtains, detailing their connections and activities with the activists, allegedly based in several European countries.
The footage was undated and taken in an unknown location.
Both Bakhshi and Gholian were detained last year during the protests.
Gholian was also arrested Sunday, according to Mizan Online.
The semi-official Fars news agency, close to conservatives, said Bakshi had attempted to flee the country to continue the “torture allegation project” abroad.
After his release from his first detention, Bakhshi claimed on his Instagram account, that he had been tortured during his 25-day detention by agents of the intelligence ministry.
In the post in early January, he also said the ministry had been eavesdropping on him and his family.
His Instagram account was later deleted.
The torture claim sparked a controversy in Iran, where officials from members of parliament to high-ranking judicial figures promising a full investigation.
Enquiries by parliament, the judiciary and the intelligence ministry found that Bakhshi had not been tortured.
Iran saw multiple strikes and protests last year over working conditions in key sectors including steel, education, mining and transport.
The Haft Tapeh protests ended in late December, with the workers being paid and the factory re-opening.
In November, the head of Iran’s judiciary warned restive workers against creating “disorder.”
Mizan Online quoted Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani as saying: “workers should not allow their demands to become an excuse and an instrument for the enemy.”