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.”


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”