Hariri: Aoun settlement over, will not deal with ‘shadow president’

Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, in Beirut, on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Hariri: Aoun settlement over, will not deal with ‘shadow president’

  • Iranian money will not solve Lebanon crisis, says former premier

BEIRUT: In a speech on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Rafic Hariri, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced that the settlement he had established with President Michel Aoun had come to an end. “The Hariri era has not ended, and I am staying in the country and in politics, and the Sunnis are staying,” he stated.
“Before the settlement, I tried to pave the way for my friend, Suleiman Franjieh, to become president, but his allies prevented him. The abolition mentality wants to abolish the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and, now, Hariri,” he said.
Hariri lashed out at the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, without naming him. “President Aoun knows how much I respect him, but I arrived at a point where I have begun to deal with two presidents — I have to deal with a shadow president to protect the original one,” he said.
He was also indirectly critical of Hezbollah. “How can we strengthen tourism without the Arabs and the citizens of the Arabian Gulf region, and how do we protect the interests of the Lebanese people, who are benefitting from employment opportunities in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries when there are those who stir up trouble with these countries?” he said.
“Iran’s money solves Hezbollah’s crisis; not the crisis of a country. Parties in the state do not operate separately and individually without actual financial policies.”  
Hariri strongly criticized the ongoing efforts to hold his father responsible for Lebanon’s economic collapse.
“What is most dangerous are suggestions that the countdown to the Taif Agreement has begun. People know how Lebanon was before Rafic Hariri and what he did for it. They did not offer the country anything of value. They did not even build a sewer. Instead, they fabricated files, dug graves, and made accusations. There is a political system that started discussing a non-Hariri era and holding Hariri responsible for ‘the deal of the century’ and the resettlement nightmare. We say that resettlement is not mentioned in the constitution,” he said.
“Seven years of impediment after (Rafic) Hariri’s assassination have been wasted on talks about the rights of minorities, who have been partners for 30 years and participated in all disturbances. The cost of electric power has amounted for 50 percent of public debt,” he added, highlighting that since the war ended, no Future Movement member of parliament had ever assumed the role of minister of energy.
“In the last two months, we have heard that the Future Movement has come to its end. We have also heard that Saudi Arabia, the US, China, and the world do not want Saad Hariri, but I assure you that the Future Movement, the movement of Arabism and moderation, is staying, and this house shall never close,” he added.

FASTFACT

Saad Hariri strongly criticized the ongoing efforts to hold his father responsible for Lebanon’s economic collapse.

Thousands of supporters and popular delegations carrying the Future Movement’s blue flag as well as Lebanon’s flag flocked to Hariri’s house and the streets surrounding it. They also carried banners that read, “Your martyrdom is revolution.”
The speech was attended by a delegation from the Democratic Gathering, led by Taymour Jumblatt, a parliamentary and ministerial delegation from the Lebanese Forces, and delegations from the Armenian Tashnag Party and the Phalange Party. It was also attended by the Saudi Arabian and UAE ambassadors to Lebanon.
Walid, a young man from Iklim Al-Kharoub region, told Arab News: “People are with Saad Hariri, may God give him strength.”
Nabiha from Beirut said: “We are with Saad Hariri. His allies have deceived him despite everything he did. He shall return to power.”
Farouk, also from Beirut, said: “Rafic Hariri leveraged everyone, but they removed him from power and then assassinated him. They are now trying to do the same to his son, Saad Hariri, but he is staying and will return strong. He will not lose his popularity.”
Political, religious and diplomatic figures also visited the grave of Rafic Hariri on the anniversary of his death, including Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin.
There was friction between Hariri’s supporters and protesters in Martyrs’ Square, opposite the site of Rafic Hariri’s grave.
During the commemoration of Rafic Hariri, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri is a mass killing. Many individuals linked to Hezbollah have been charged with playing roles in this terrorist attack, and they must be brought to justice in the end.”
Pompeo added that Hezbollah had proven through its terrorist and illegal activities that it cared more about its interests and the interests of its sponsor, Iran, than about the best interests of the Lebanese people.
“The US continues to proudly stand with the Lebanese people in their peaceful calls for reform, transparency, and accountability,” he added.


Lavrov rejects Idlib cease-fire as ‘capitulating before terrorists’

Syrians search for victims following an airstrike by pro-regime forces in Binnish, Idlib, near the border with Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 45 sec ago

Lavrov rejects Idlib cease-fire as ‘capitulating before terrorists’

  • Turkish-backed opposition fighters seize town as Assad troops press ahead with campaign

GENEVA: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday rejected calls for a halt to a Russia-backed Syrian offensive in Idlib in northwest Syria.

“This is capitulating before terrorists and even a reward for their activities in violation of international treaties and numerous UN Security Council resolutions,” Lavrov told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Lavrov accused some governments of “a desire to justify outrageous acts committed by radical and terrorist groupings.
“Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain admonishments about the possibility of concluding peace agreements with bandits,” he said, referring to the situation in Idlib.
Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military have seized the town of Nairab in northwest Syria’s Idlib province, the first area to be taken back from advancing Syrian regime forces.
“With the help of our Turkish friends, we have regained control of the strategic town of Nairab, the gateway of Saraqeb, after expelling the terrorist Russian militias,” Yusef Hamoud, spokesman for the Turkish-backed National Army, said.
A Turkish security official said the Turkish military had supported the rebel offensive with shelling and that bomb disposal teams and the rebels were now clearing the town, located about 20 km southeast of rebel-held Idlib city.
Their next goal was to capture the strategic town of Saraqeb, where Syria’s main north-south highway linking Damascus and Aleppo meets the road west to the Mediterranean. “This will happen soon. The regime suffered heavy losses in the clashes last night. Also, a serious amount of weapons and ammunition was seized,” the Turkish official said.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on the warring sides to allow safe passage for civilians to escape attacks. It reminded them that hospitals, markets and schools are protected by law.

FASTFACT

A Turkish security official said the Turkish military had supported the rebel offensive with shelling and that bomb disposal teams and the rebels were now clearing the town, located about 20 km southeast of rebel-held Idlib city.

“We are urging parties to allow civilians to move to safety, either in areas they control or across the front lines,” ICRC spokeswoman Ruth Hetherington told a news briefing.
An airstrike struck a school, killing three people, Syrian opposition activists said, as regime forces moved forward in their offensive toward a town considered a symbol of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The violence came as Turkey’s president announced that a Russian delegation would arrive the following day to resume talks aimed at easing tensions in Idlib.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said no consensus was reached for a four-way meeting next month between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Turkey meant to address the crisis. He added, however, that Russia’s Vladimir Putin may still come to Turkey next week for a bilateral meeting. Moscow has so far not confirmed a March 5 visit by the Russian president to Turkey.
“Russia supports Syria at the highest level,” Erdogan told reporters before departing for a visit to Azerbaijan. “Even if they deny it, we have evidence. We are forced to be in this fight.”