Lebanon’s Saad Hariri says he’s open to becoming PM again, warns of civil war

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Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Thursday that he was open to returning to the premiership if political sides in the country agreed to the French roadmap to recovery for Beirut, but warned of a civil war breaking out.

“I will meet with all political sides to find out their stance and approval on the French initiative, and if all sides agree, I will not close the door” to becoming prime minister, Hariri said in a televised interview.

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Hariri was forced to step down amid nationwide anti-government protests that broke out in October 2019.

Following his resignation, Hezbollah and its allies formed a so-called technocratic government made up of experts. But the government, headed by Hassan Diab, was unable to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for badly-needed aid and the economic crisis further deepened.

Diab stepped down after the catastrophic Aug. 4 Beirut blasts and renewed protests against corruption and sectarianism in the country.

Members of the Lebanese army and the French military ride a boat past the damaged grain silo near site of the massive blast in Beirut's port area. (Reuters)
Members of the Lebanese army and the French military ride a boat past the damaged grain silo near site of the massive blast in Beirut's port area. (Reuters)

On Thursday, Hariri voiced his fears of a civil war breaking out in Lebanon due to the weapons outside of the state’s control, including Hezbollah’s arsenal.

“I fear a civil war because what is taking place from military parades and arms in the streets of Beirut, and yesterday in Baalbek-Hermel, portrays the collapse of the state,” Hariri said.

But the former PM reiterated that he was a candidate to head a new government “without a favor from anyone,” because “I have a parliamentary bloc and it’s known who I am.”

Asked about Lebanon and Israel’s recent agreement to begin US-mediated talks on disputed maritime borders, Hariri said Iran-backed Hezbollah and its Shia ally, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, feared US sanctions.

“There were sanctions on some [individuals] and [they] started looking at ways to protect themselves,” Hariri said, in an apparent reference to recent US sanctions on Hezbollah’s political allies.

He also called on Hezbollah to make sacrifices and stop dragging Lebanon into its external problems, including military participation in Syria and Iraq. “There is a project to drag Lebanon into a civil war. I am against war. I am against weapons,” Hariri said.

“There are sides inside the country that left us no Gulf or Arab friend … and Hezbollah’s interference in Syria, Iraq and Yemen caused this ordeal for Lebanon,” Hariri said.

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