Saudi Arabia wants Lebanon to reduce Hezbollah presence: Lebanese FM

Lebanon’s foreign minister said Saudi Arabia was dictating impossible terms by asking the government to reduce the role of Hezbollah, backed by Iran, adding that Beirut’s dispute with Riyadh could be resolved if the kingdom agreed to a dialogue with the new one. Lebanese cabinet.

“If they just want Hezbollah’s head on a plate, we can’t give them that,” Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Lebanon is facing its worst break with the Persian Gulf states, spurred by critical comments from a minister about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen who described the war there as futile.

Saudi Arabia and some Persian Gulf allies have reacted angrily to comments made by the Information Minister in an interview last week, which he filmed before taking office. Riyadh expelled the Lebanese ambassador, banned all Lebanese imports, and called his envoy for consultations.

Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit by expelling top envoys in their own capitals, while the United Arab Emirates withdrew all of its diplomats from Beirut.


Saudi Arabia has said its actions were not only prompted by George Kordahi’s comments, but rather based on his objection to the growing dominance of the armed group Hezbollah over Lebanese politics.

The dispute is part of a long-standing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has developed into power conflicts throughout the region, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq.

The Gulf states are traditional aid donors to Lebanon, but for several years they have been increasingly dismayed by Hezbollah’s expanding power and have so far been reluctant to help rescue Lebanon from a devastating economic crisis.

On Tuesday, Bou Habib told Reuters that he believed that mutual dialogue between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia was the only way to resolve the dispute. But he added that there have been no meetings at any level between the two sides since Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet was formed on September 10.

“There has been no dialogue (with Saudi Arabia) even before the problem with Minister Kordahi … the Saudi ambassador here never communicated with us,” said Bou Habib.

“He (the Saudi ambassador) was here and he was communicating with a lot of Lebanese politicians, but he was not communicating with us.”

Kordahi has refused to resign over the incident, but Bou Habib said it was unclear whether his resignation would resolve the rift with Saudi Arabia at this time, although it could be enough for others in the Gulf.

The only offer on the table towards a resolution so far has come from Qatar, whose Emir met Mikati in Glasgow on the sidelines of the COP26 meeting on Monday, Bou Habib said.

“There is the possibility of mediation from Qatar,” Bou Habib said, but added that it was in the initial stages and that the Qataris had not yet spoken to the Saudis on the matter.

“There is no other initiative.”

    SAUDI CROWN Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a Shura Council session in Riyadh, 2019. Rosenberg met personally with MBS.  (credit: BANDAR ALGALOUD / COURTESY OF THE ROYAL COURT OF SAUDI / BROCHURE VIA REUTERS) SAUDI CROWN Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a Shura Council session in Riyadh, 2019. Rosenberg met personally with MBS. (credit: BANDAR ALGALOUD / COURTESY OF THE ROYAL COURT OF SAUDI / BROCHURE VIA REUTERS)

Qatar has denounced Kordahi’s comments but has not announced any diplomatic initiative on the incident.

Bou Habib said that any efforts by Qatar to mediate could be aided by the resolution earlier this year of a separate row pitting Qatar against Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states that had resulted in a better relationship between Doha and Riyadh.

The Mikati government, formed after more than a year of political stalemate that has added to Lebanon’s financial decline, is trying to revive talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock much-needed foreign funds.

But aside from political paralysis over an internal dispute related to the Beirut port explosion investigation, this latest diplomatic crisis has hampered the cabinet, Bou Habib said.

“Of course it has affected us, it has affected us a lot, not a little,” he said.

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