Hariri says Iran to blame for Lebanon crisis, promises to return to his country 'very soon'

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Lebanon's resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri being interviewed on Future TV on Sunday.
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Posters depicting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned from his post, are seen in Beirut, Lebanon, on November 10, 2017. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo)
Updated 13 November 2017

Hariri says Iran to blame for Lebanon crisis, promises to return to his country 'very soon'

JEDDAH: Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon at the behest of Iran is the cause of the country’s political crisis and his own resignation as prime minister, Saad Hariri said in a dramatic and emotional TV interview on Sunday night. 
“I am not against Hezbollah as a political party but it should not be the cause of the destruction of Lebanon,” Hariri said. 
He also said he would return to Lebanon “very soon,” and may even withdraw his resignation if Hezbollah respected Lebanon’s policy of staying out of regional conflicts. 
Hariri quit on Nov. 4 in Riyadh, because of Iran’s influence in Lebanon, and said he feared for his life. In his interview with Future TV, he said the decision was his alone, and that the aim was to cause “a positive shock” that would draw Lebanon’s attention to the dangers it was facing. 
King Salman of Saudi Arabia treated him as his own son, Hariri said, and he had the greatest respect for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In the TV interview, broadcast from Riyadh, he said the stability of Lebanon was important for both the king and the crown prince. Saudi Arabia more than any other country had helped Lebanon after the 2006 war with Israel, he said. 
“Lebanon is a small country and it needs to be nonaligned, and Saudi Arabia always demands the best for Lebanon and stresses the importance of distancing itself. What would happen to 400,000 Lebanese in the Gulf if we join an axis?” he said. 
“Iran must stop meddling in the affairs of Arab countries and we refuse to be taken by Iran to an axis against Arab countries. I will not be drawn to building relations with the Syrian regime, which does not want me. Things have to be straightened out to keep Lebanon away from regional conflicts.”
Hariri admitted that he had lost popularity with the Lebanese people when he agreed to a political settlement for a consensus government with Hezbollah ministers, “but the others did not live up to their commitment. I can’t be the only one making concessions while the others do whatever they want.”
Hariri said he had visited the UAE last week to explain to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, his position and the need to protect Lebanon. He described their meeting as “brotherly and positive.’’
He also denied that he had any connection with the anti-corruption investigation launched in Saudi Arabia last week. 
“I wish we could fight corruption in Lebanon like Saudi Arabia is doing, but fighting corruption in Saudi Arabia is an internal affair that we have nothing to do with. I have not been subjected to any questioning in the context of the campaign in Saudi Arabia.” 
Hariri said his fears of being assassinated, as his father Rafiq Hariri was, were genuine, but that he was still free to return to Lebanon. “I am free to travel tomorrow if I want to. I will be back in Lebanon in a few days.
“I don’t care about my life — what matters to me is that Lebanon stays safe.”

Female candidates shake up Iraq election

Updated 20 min 10 sec ago

Female candidates shake up Iraq election

  • ‘I will vote for one of the beautiful candidates and I do not mind if she has robbed me,’ soldier tells Arab News
  • Provocative posters and billboards of female Iraqi parliamentary candidates have sparked a heated debate about the role of women in the country’s male-dominated political system

BAGHDAD: Iraqis will go to the polls on May 12 to elect 329 MPs — the fourth parliamentary vote since the 2003 US-led invasion toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. 

With security better in much of the country than it has been for several years, the election has led to a surge of interest in a new generation of female candidates.

A total of 2,592 women are standing for office across the country and in Baghdad many of them have shunned the nation’s conservative traditions to run socially liberal and occasionally glamorous campaigns unlike anything Iraq has seen before.

Some posters depicting female candidates in make-up and without Islamic headscarves, have provoked a mixed response from an electorate more accustomed to voting for unsmiling religious clerics.

While some voters said the images were a welcome change to the dry, male-dominated campaigns of old, others accused the women of lacking “political depth” and relying on their looks to woo the public. The candidates themselves have defended their unorthodox approach as just another way to generate interest in the election.

In an interview with Iraqi news agency, Al-Manar Press, Mannal Al-Mu’atassim, said she hoped her fashionable image would motivate more young people to support her in the polls. She told Arab News that while she was “not betting” on her looks to win her more votes, she regarded her appearance as more important than her ability to debate conventional political issues.

“I believe that Iraqi voters are heading toward choosing new faces, so there is no need for an electoral program or slogans,” she said. 

Under the terms of the Iraqi constitution, 25 percent of the seats in the national Parliament are reserved for women. 

This is the first time, however, that the participation of female candidates has generated such widespread public interest among an electorate used to taking a cynical view of more established politicians linked to corruption and sectarian violence.

Ziena Al-Shimari, another female candidate in Baghdad, told Arab News she had been granted permission to run by the head of her tribe and was now determined to stand up for the rights of a new generation of Iraqis.

“I am calling on us to unify the Arab tribes because they support the young while the state does not,” she said.Since campaigning began on April 14, the images of the women have given rise to a range of reactions, from anger and mockery to adulation and pride.

“I will vote for one of the beautiful candidates and I do not mind if she has robbed me” Murtadha Zayer, a soldier, told Arab News. “If a beautiful thief robs me in front of my eyes it is better than having an ugly thief who continues to trick me all the time.”

Some of the pictures showing the female candidates have been torn by infuriated voters, while others have been defaced to give the women beards and mustaches.

Salah Ahmed, a political activist, criticized many of the women for lacking “cultural or political depth” and targeting “ignorant voters”.

“If we asked them to participate in electoral debates to identify their visions, plans and ways of thinking, we would find they had nothing to offer. So to compensate for this shortage they are focusing on their make-up and changes to their appearance,” he said.

Bushra Zuwini, a former minister of women’s affairs, told Arab News political factions are using female candidates who lack knowledge of important issues to trick the electorate.

“The big blocs now have experience in how to defraud voters, so they brought in new faces that do not understand politics and do not have any programs or visions,” she said. “This phenomenon will reflect negatively on women.