BEIRUT: Lebanese businessman Bahaa Hariri, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, said on Friday that Lebanon must be freed from the crisis it is facing and regain its sovereignty.
“We demand the liberation of Lebanon from the current siege and insist on the neutrality of Lebanon,” he said.
Earlier, in an interview with Vatican News, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai once again condemned the actions of Iran-backed Hezbollah, including its intervention in conflicts across the region.
In the latest in a string of attacks on the militant group, the country’s leading Christian cleric accused it of sidelining the Lebanese state, and said there is a “sort of control from Hezbollah on the Lebanese government and the country’s policies.”
He added: “Lebanon does not want this.”
Referring to the patriarch’s comments, Hariri said: “His voice resonates in all of Lebanon. The country has to maintain its balance. It can either survive and prosper, or collapse and fall."
He added that “Lebanese political parties have turned into legions occupying the state,” and criticized the subservient stance of Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
“The president does not wish to ‘provoke’ Hezbollah, and (by) giving in he is demeaning the presidency.”
Hariri, whose father was assassinated in 2005, said Lebanon is engulfed in a colossal crisis. He pledged his unconditional support for Rai as part of efforts to restore the nation’s freedom and independence, and to restore its sovereignty and guarantee the freedoms of its citizens.
“(Lebanon) is facing isolation, bankruptcy, poverty and hunger,” he said.
“We know that the Maronite patriarch will not allow a worsening of this situation. We support him as we choose to walk the same path.
“Lebanon is a country of homogeneity, pluralism and coexistence. Today, our country is isolated from the whole world but this is not who we are. Our identity consists of constructive and positive neutrality, and a refusal to engage in (violent) conflict.”
Addressing Rai directly, Hariri said: “We stand by you during good and bad times.”
He added: “Like you, we wish only to regain Lebanon as a homeland for all its people. We agree with you that neutrality brings stability and growth, and it saves us from poverty and hunger.
“Like you, we were not convinced by the message conveyed to you by President Michel Aoun from Hezbollah, which confirms his rejection of (neutrality for) Lebanon. We do not believe Hezbollah’s justifications that neutrality is in the service of Israel and American policy.”