BEIRUT: Lebanon has banned Bahraini opposition forces from holding two political events at a hotel in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a stronghold of Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Lebanese Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said he blocked the events at the Assaha Hotel on Beirut Airport Road for a group that calls itself the “Bahraini Youth Coalition,” which were due to take place on Friday and Monday.
“If these two events were to take place, they would undermine official Bahraini authorities and Gulf states, thus blocking efforts by Lebanon to boost ties with these countries,” the ministry said in a statement.
The office of the interior minister said: “After consulting with the prime minister, Mawlawi asked the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces and the General Directorate of General Security to immediately instruct the hotel management not to host the two events because they did not obtain legal permissions, and to take all necessary investigative measures to collect information on the organizers and invitees.”
The ministry acted after invitations for the events appeared on social media.
The hotel denied having any knowledge of the nature of the events.
“Media agencies booked the hotel for two seminars without providing the management with details,” it said in a statement on Friday.
“Upon discovering that the seminars dealt with a specific political issue, the management contacted the concerned parties and canceled the reservations.”
The block comes two months after Lebanon ordered the expulsion of members of Bahrain’s opposition party, Al-Wefaq, after they held a news conference in Beirut that irked authorities in Bahrain, where the group is banned.
The ministry ordered security services to “deport all non-Lebanese members of the Bahraini opposition party Al-Wefaq,” the day after the press conference on Dec. 12.
Manama expressed its dissatisfaction at the time at “Lebanon allowing a group banned in Bahrain to hold a conference.”
The Lebanese government expressed its regret that Beirut hosted the event, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati saying he would not let groups “use Lebanon as a platform to offend Bahrain,” just as he refused to offend other Arab countries, especially the GCC states.
In October, Gulf states suspended diplomatic ties with Lebanon after the airing of comments on the Yemen conflict by then Information Minister George Kordahi.
Kordahi resigned in December in a bid to ease diplomatic tensions and restore trust between the two sides.
Lebanese authorities are keen to prevent any attempt to obstruct efforts to strengthen relations with the Gulf in light of the recent Kuwaiti initiative.
Media outlets close to Hezbollah announced that the event scheduled for Friday at the Assaha Hotel would be postponed until Tuesday, while Monday’s event would go ahead as scheduled.
Hezbollah suggested the events be held at the Resalat Theater in a suburb of southern Beirut supervised by the Hezbollah-affiliated Ghobeiry municipality. The party uses the venue for its events.
The interior minister on Friday night requested the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces and the General Directorate of Public Security to inform the Resalat Theater management not to conduct the two events because they did not obtain permission.
They were also asked to take all necessary investigative measures to collect information on the organizers and invitees.
A Lebanese political source opposed to Hezbollah earlier told Arab News: “The party’s stance comes in the context of sending messages, albeit attenuated, to those concerned, through which Iran and Hezbollah want to convey that there will be no concession in this regard, as concessions usually have a price.”
The person added: “It is enough for Hezbollah to say that the events were held in Lebanon and the coverage of the two events may well be insignificant. Is it thus being considerate of the Lebanese government’s decision? Perhaps.”