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Lebanese Prime Minister resigns over fear for life

05 November 2017

In this file photo from 2015, people stand in front of an image of Rafik al-Hariri as they mark the 10th anniversary of the former prime minister's assassination near his grave in downtown Beirut.

"I sensed whats being woven in secret to target my life", he said. Social media were flooded with messages deriding him for choosing to resign from overseas and on a foreign channel.

Addressing "Iran and its followers" he said Lebanon would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it".

His resignation - a big surprise to Beirut's political establishment - brought down the coalition government and plunged Lebanon into a new political crisis.

"Iran has a grip on the fate of the region's countries..."

Lebanese and regional analysts, whether supporters or opponents of Hezbollah, said it appeared that Hariri had been pressured to resign by his patrons, the Saudis, as they and the United States ratchet up efforts to counter Iranian influence. Iran was sowing strife, destruction and ruin wherever it went and he accused it of a "deep hatred for the Arab nation".

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Iran dismissed his accusations as "unfounded".

Hariri also had harsh words for Hezbollah.

He earlier said that those who cooperate with Hezbollah must be "punished".

Hezbollah's arsenal has since grown exponentially and now outstrips that of the nation's own armed forces. The group initially aimed to end Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon.

Taking up the prime minister's office last year, Mr Hariri promised a "new era for Lebanon" after two years of political deadlock.

He made his fortune in Saudi Arabia, where his son Saad was born.

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"The Saudi Arabia-Iranian rivalry now is going to play out on Lebanon's streets in the next few days and next few weeks".

The office of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a veteran Christian leader allied to Hezbollah, issued a statement saying it was waiting for Hariri's return to Lebanon "to enquire about the circumstances of his decision and decide on the next steps".

"We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri", he said in the broadcast from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Hariri also drew a comparison between the political situation in Lebanon today and in 2005.

"I declare my resignation from the premiership of the Lebanese government, with the certainty that the will of the Lebanese is strong", Hariri said. "It's part of an all-out Saudi confrontation with Iran", he said.

"Lebanon is too small and vulnerable to bear the economic and political burden that comes with this resignation", he said on social media.

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Hariri meanwhile backs opposition to Assad and enjoys the support of Tehran's regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese Prime Minister resigns over fear for life