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
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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.”


Trump: Turkey making ‘terrible mistake’

Turkish government officials did not comment on Trump’s remarks when they spoke after prayers to mark the start of the festival. (AFP)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Trump: Turkey making ‘terrible mistake’

  • Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt
  • A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump

ISTANBUL: The lira weakened against the dollar on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump said he would give Turkey no concessions in return for the release of a detained American pastor, the latest salvo in a worsening rift between the NATO allies.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump criticized Ankara over the detention of the evangelical Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, and said he was not concerned that his tough stance against Turkey could end up hurting European and emerging market economies.
Brunson, who is originally from North Carolina and has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies. The pastor has become an unwitting flashpoint for the diplomatic tension, which has accelerated the crisis in the lira.
Trump said that, after he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen, he thought Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would then release Brunson.
“I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” Trump said.
The lira weakened to 6.0925 against the US currency by 1111 GMT, from a close of 6.0865 on Monday, when Turkish markets began a holiday to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Adha festival that continues for the rest of this week.
Trade was thinner than usual and probably mainly offshore, with local markets closed for the holiday. The currency has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year. However, selling on Tuesday was limited due to a broadly weaker dollar.
Turkish government officials did not comment on Trump’s remarks when they spoke after prayers to mark the start of the festival.
Devlet Bahceli, leader of a nationalist party allied with Erdogan’s AK Party, told reporters: “We have no business with those who love Brunson more than us.”

Prayers and gifts
Erdogan, who had been expected to speak to reporters after morning prayers, made no public statement.
He has repeatedly cast the currency crisis as an attack on Turkey but has stopped short of singling out any one country.
He prayed on Tuesday morning at a mosque near the tourist resort of Marmaris on the south coast and then handed out gifts to local children, the Milliyet newspaper reported.
He also spoke by phone to soldiers stationed near the border with Iraq, sending them greetings for Eid Al-Adha.
“I believe that as long as you stand tall our flag will not fall, our call to prayer will not fall silent and this homeland of ours will not be divided,” the Hurriyet newspaper reported him as saying.
On Monday, he appealed to Turks’ religious and patriotic feelings ahead of the holiday, promising they would not be brought “to their knees” by the economic crisis.
Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt, but Washington has balked at this.
A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump. The US president — who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters — has said he would double previously announced tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.
On Monday Turkey initiated a dispute complaint with the World Trade Organization over the tariffs.
Separately, ratings agency Fitch said on Tuesday that tight liquidity amplified risks for Turkish companies.
Another ratings agency, DBRS, said European banks with Turkey exposure face a manageable capital impact.
Underlining the increased diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the US, the US Embassy in Ankara came under gunfire on Monday. Nobody was injured and Turkish authorities later detained two men over the incident.