Iran Rejects Saudi Blame over Missiles, Alleges War Crimes
Lebanon urges unity to prevent fallout from shock exit by PM
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president on Monday appealed for the country’s political factions to remain united to face off any fallout from Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation.
Hariri announced he was leaving his post in a television broadcast at the weekend from Saudi Arabia, where he met King Salman on Monday.
The surprise statement sparked concerns that Lebanon would be sent into a political tailspin, but President Michel Aoun sought to allay those fears on Monday.
Speaking to senior national security officials at the presidential palace, Aoun said Lebanon’s political leadership had responded positively to “calls for calm”.
“National unity remains the foundation for maintaining security and political stability in the country. All efforts should concentrate on preserving this unity, especially in the circumstances that the country is passing through,” Aoun said.
Top officials in the meeting included Lebanon’s defence and interior ministers, as well as the heads of the army and general security service.
Saudi King Salman meets outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri yesterday. – AFP
After the meeting, Justice Minister Salim Jreissati said Aoun would not take any decisions before meeting with Hariri, according to the presidency.
It remains unclear when Hariri will return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia, where he was meeting with King Salman and other Saudi officials on Monday.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency said the two leaders “reviewed the situation in Lebanon,” without providing additional details.
Hariri is a two-time premier whose father Rafiq held the same position for years and was assassinated in 2005.
In his televised resignation on Saturday, he accused Lebanese ally Hezbollah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region.
His statement prompted fears that Lebanon — split into rival camps led by Hariri and Hezbollah — would be caught up in spiralling tensions in the region.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah sought to downplay the risks of conflict between Lebanon’s rival camps, or with his party’s arch-foe Israel.
“Do not listen to alarmist speeches… do not worry, there is nothing to worry about,” he said in a televised address on Sunday night.
“We will react responsibly and calmly… we are concerned about the security” of Lebanon, Nasrallah added.
Nasrallah said his party had not sought Hariri’s resignation, which had instead been “imposed” on the premier by outside forces.
He also called for “calm, patience and waiting until the reasons become clear” for Hariri stepping aside.
But Sami Atallah, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, said there was a real risk the country could descend into a fresh cycle of violence.
“The whole country is at stake. The whole political system is at stake,” Atallah said on Monday. With no obvious contender as the future prime minister, the political uncertainty could shake international confidence in Lebanon’s economy, he said.
Berri from Baabda: Too early to talk about Cabinet resignation or formation
06 Nov 2017
Lebanon- House Speaker Nabih Berri voiced full support to the presidential statement issued on the subject of the resignation of PM Saad Hariri, saying it was still premature to talk about Cabinet resignation or formation.
Speaker Berri was speaking in the wake of his meeting with President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, at the Baabda Palace on Monday evening.
Berri on Monday returned to Beirut from Cairo, where he attended the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Sheikh and met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
There is a full and total understanding with President Michel Aoun over the current crisis," Berri affirmed in the wake of the Baabda meeting.
Mashnouq Has 'Impression' Hariri Will Return, Lauds Aoun's 'Wisdom'
Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced Monday that he has an “impression” that resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri will return soon to the country.
“The meeting between Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and resigned PM Saad Hariri puts an end to a lot of rumors and proves that the situation is good. It also gives an impression that Hariri will return within days and this is an impression and not information,” Hariri said at Dar al-Fatwa after a meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan.
“The security situation is under control at all levels,” the minister reassured.
He noted that “all answers, proposals and problems remain uncertain before PM Hariri gives answers about all that has happened.”
Turning to President Michel Aoun's performance in the wake of Hariri's shock resignation, Mashnouq said the president “did a good thing when he said that he would wait for Hariri's return from Saudi Arabia before acting,” noting that Aoun “showed high wisdom and created balance with the vacuum that resulted from the televised resignation.”
The minister also pointed out that “Lebanese security agencies did not have any information about the possibility of an assassination attempt against PM Hariri,” adding that “a credible Western security source could have informed Hariri directly of this.”
Hariri announced his shock resignation on Saturday in a broadcast from the Saudi capital, decrying what he called the "grip" of Hizbullah and Iran on Lebanon. He also said he feared for his life.
Saudis blame Iran for ‘act of war’, close access to Yemen
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia and Iran traded fierce accusations over Yemen yesterday, with Riyadh saying a rebel missile attack “may amount to an act of war” and Tehran accusing its rival of war crimes. Tensions have been rising between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are opposed in disputes and conflicts across the Middle East from Yemen and Syria to Qatar and Lebanon. Yesterday, a Saudi-led military coalition battling Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen said it reserved the “right to respond” to the missile attack on Riyadh at the weekend, calling it a “blatant military aggression by the Iranian regime which may amount to an act of war”.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir also warned Tehran. “Iranian interventions in the region are detrimental to the security of neighboring countries and affect international peace and security. We will not allow any infringement on our national security,” Jubeir tweeted. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued dismissive tweets over the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in response. “KSA is engaged in wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilising behaviour & risky provocations. It blames Iran for the consequences,” he wrote.
Saudi forces on Saturday intercepted and destroyed the ballistic missile near Riyadh’s international airport after it was reportedly fired by Shiite Houthi rebels from Yemen. It was the first attempted missile strike by the rebels to reach Riyadh and threaten air traffic, underscoring the growing threat posed by the conflict on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.
The coalition yesterday sealed off air, sea and land borders in Yemen, where it has been battling rebels in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government since 2015. “The Coalition Forces Command decided to temporarily close all Yemeni air, sea and land ports,” the coalition said in a statement on the Saudi state news agency SPA.
Meanwhile, a helicopter carrying a high-ranking Saudi prince and other government officials crashed Sunday in the kingdom’s south, reportedly killing all eight people aboard. The Saudi Interior Ministry said early yesterday that the crash happened in Saudi Arabia’s Asir province as the official took part in a tour of local projects near Abha, some 160 km from the border with Yemen. Security officials gave no cause for the crash, but said a search of the wreckage was underway. In Yemen, Houthi officials offered no immediate comment on the crash, while the group’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel reported only that the crash had occurred.
The kingdom is in the midst of an unprecedented purge of its upper ranks, with dozens of senior figures arrested at the weekend, as Crown Prince Mohammed consolidates his hold on power. Prince Mohammed, who is also defense minister, is seen as a key supporter of the intervention in Yemen. The campaign of mass arrests widened yesterday after a top entrepreneur was reportedly held in the biggest anti-corruption purge of the kingdom’s affluent elite in its modern history.
King Salman yesterday swore in new officials to take over from a powerful prince and former minister believed to be detained in the sweep. SPA released images of the king swearing in new National Guard chief Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf Al-Muqrin and new Economy and Planning Minister Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who for the past four years had led the National Guard, and Adel Fakeih, who was minister of economy since April, were both reportedly arrested. Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne.
Prominent Saudi columnist Jamal Kashoggi applauded the campaign, but warned: “He is imposing very selective justice.” “The crackdown on even the most constructive criticism – the demand for complete loyalty with a significant ‘or else’ – remains a serious challenge to the crown prince’s desire to be seen as a modern, enlightened leader,” he wrote in the Washington Post. “The buck stops at the leader’s door. He is not above the standard he is now setting for the rest of his family, and for the country.”
Iran Rejects Saudi Blame over Missiles, Alleges War Crimes
Iran dismissed Saudi accusations Monday that it was responsible for a missile attack on Riyadh from Yemen, saying rebels fired it in retaliation for Saudi "war crimes" in the conflict-riven country.
An Iranian foreign ministry statement quoted its spokesman Bahram Ghassemi as saying the accusations by the Saudi-led coalition were "unjust, irresponsible, destructive and provocative".
Saudi forces intercepted and destroyed the ballistic missile launched on Saturday from Yemen, where the kingdom leads a coalition in support of the recognised government against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels.
Ghassemi said the missile was fired by the Huthis in response "to war crimes and several years of aggression by the Saudis".
The missile attack, the foreign ministry spokesman said, was "an independent action in response to this aggression," and Iran had nothing to do with it.
He also called on Riyadh to halt its "empty accusations" and its attacks on "defenseless and innocent people as soon as possible and to pave the way for inter-Yemeni dialogue to bring peace to the country".
SourceAgence France Presse