Lebanon feels repercussions of Al-Hariri's shock resignation

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This photo from Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri’s Twitter account shows him with Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Yakoob. ‘It was a pleasure meeting Ambassador Waleed Yakoob after his swearing in before King Salman in Riyadh on Sunday,’ said Al-Hariri in his first tweet since his aannouncement of resignation on Saturday.
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This file photo taken on November 03, 2016 shows Lebanon's new Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaking to journalists following his nomination at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2017

Lebanon feels repercussions of Al-Hariri's shock resignation

BEIRUT: Lebanon has continued to feel the repercussions of the shock resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri.

Political positions ranged from support from Al-Hariri’s allies and those who remain in shock, such as the Free Patriotic Movement to Hezbollah, which insists on considering Al-Hariri’s decision “bad.”

Dar Al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, witnessed a series of meetings and statements stressing the importance of the “unity of the Sunni sect to which the prime minister belongs, according to the Lebanese constitution.

“No one of the Sunni political figures will accept his appointment as prime minister in succession to Prime Minister Al-Hariri,” sources close to Dar Al-Fatwa told Arab News, pointing out that the meetings “unanimously agreed to confirm unity at this crucial stage.”

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abul Latif Al-Daryan met with Charge d’Affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon, Minister Plenipotentiary Walid Al-Bukhari.

“What is happening in the Lebanese arena today is dangerous and requires more awareness, wisdom, and national unity among the Lebanese,” Al-Daryan said.

He stressed that the resignation of Al-Hariri was “a shock that did not come out of nothing. We support him and understand this resignation and it should be treated with care and dialogue.”

“Lebanon is for all its people,” Al-Daryan stressed, saying: “Saudi Arabia is keen on the security and stability of Lebanon and wants what is good for Lebanon as it wants good for other Arab countries that have fraternal relations with Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”

The head of the “Future” parliamentary bloc, Fouad Siniora, said in media statements that the resignation of Al-Hariri was "an alarm for the developments of political settlement in Lebanon.”

Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement considered the political settlement accepted by Al-Hariri as "a weakness to achieve political gains.”

Siniora said: “The state should be the sole authority in Lebanon,” accusing Hezbollah of “acting according to Iranian instructions.”

Marada movement head, Suleiman Franjieh, tweeted: “We will not accept a prime minister who defies the Sunni component and does not enjoy national consensus.”

Strategic expert Antoine Haddad told Arab News: “Lebanon faces several possibilities, either an unprecedented Israeli war with its destructive capability, or Lebanon being completely isolated as a result of a larger economic blockade, especially as Arab countries are an important economic partner for Lebanon, both in terms of Lebanese investment and employment in the Gulf states.”

This isolation may be added to the recent US sanctions which put Lebanon in an unprecedented situation. “The likely possibility is that Hezbollah and Iran will back down from their determination to use Lebanon as a battlefield,” Haddad added.

The presidential palace did not issue any statement about the announcement of the date of parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, which is stipulated in the constitution after the prime minister submits his resignation.

Free Patriotic Movement leader, Gebran Bassil, commented on the crisis in an interview with his supporters that appeared to be an attempt to heal the rift with Al-Hariri.

“If it is something that is not agreed upon by everyone; it comes with the background of preserving the country. We know very well that rule in Lebanon is not about excluding any Lebanese. Everything that happened before was a mistake that will not be repeated. We are determined to be together in ruling and government.”

Iran still short of nuclear deal’s enriched uranium cap: diplomats

Updated 16 min 31 sec ago

Iran still short of nuclear deal’s enriched uranium cap: diplomats

  • Two diplomats said Iran produces around 1kg of enriched uranium a day
  • UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran currently has around 200kg of low-enriched uranium

VIENNA: Iran is still short of the maximum amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to have under its deal with major powers but it is on course to reach that limit at the weekend, the latest data from UN nuclear inspectors shows, diplomats say.

This makes it unlikely Iran will follow through on its threat to violate one of the nuclear deal’s central restrictions on Thursday, which could have unraveled the pact altogether.

It also sets up a meeting with other signatories on Friday aimed at saving the accord, which is straining under US pressure.

“They haven’t reached the limit... It’s more likely to be at the weekend if they do it,” one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The 2015 deal, which lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities, is aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to a year from roughly 2-3 months.

On Wednesday, the UN nuclear watchdog verified that Iran had roughly 200 kg of low-enriched uranium, below the deal’s 202.8 kg limit, three diplomats who follow the agency’s work said.

Two of the diplomats said Iran was producing at a rate of around 1 kg a day, meaning it could go over the line soon after the meeting of senior officials from Iran, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China in Vienna on Friday.

Washington pulled out of the nuclear accord last year and has imposed punishing economic sanctions against Tehran.

Iran has threatened to respond by setting aside some of the deal’s restrictions, which could cause the deal to collapse, though it has called on European powers to do more to shield it from US sanctions — a move the White House has called “nuclear blackmail.”

The European powers are scrambling to protect trade with Iran but what they can achieve pales in comparison to US sanctions aimed at slashing Iran’s vital oil exports to zero.

Diplomats have also stressed the European signatories are weary of Iranian demands that they sustain a pact that Washington has withdrawn from and said if Tehran followed suit, they would have little choice but to acquiesce in the reimposition of UN sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is policing the deal’s nuclear restrictions, does not generally comment on details of its inspections. It was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

“We’ve made it clear to the Iranians that we have zero tolerance on the nuclear issue,” a senior European official said. “They are close to the threshold, but we will wait for the IAEA to report back to us in the coming days.”