Iran ‘hopes Hariri returns to Lebanon, helps restore calm’
Iran says it hopes that Saad Hariri, who has resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister, will return home from Saudi Arabia and help restore calm to his country by pursuing his resignation there.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said in a press briefing on Monday that Hariri’s Sunday remark that he would return to Lebanon offered “a flicker of hope” that calm would be restored in the Arab country.
Hariri announced his shock resignation in Saudi Arabia and in footage broadcast by a Saudi-owned television on November 2. The announcement is widely seen to have been made under Saudi influence, and Lebanese President Michel Aoun has refused to formally consider Hariri’s resignation, saying he has to return first.
Lebanese government officials also said they believed Hariri was “being held” in Saudi Arabia against his will, and signaled that his resignation had not been voluntary.
Saudi Arabia has claimed that Hariri is a free man, and in a Sunday interview arranged in Riyadh, Hariri, too, claimed he was free to travel and would return to Lebanon “within days.”
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says he is not being held captive in Saudi Arabia and will be returning to his country in the next few days.
Back in 2016, Hariri reached an agreement with various political factions in Lebanon to form a unity government and become prime minister.
Qassemi said that had been the right course and hinted that Hariri’s “strange and unprecedented” move to announce his resignation from a third country had worked to disrupt calm in Lebanon.
He said Iran perceived Hariri’s resignation as “suspicious” but was nevertheless hopeful that he would return to Lebanon and pursue his resignation there.
Hariri’s Sunday “remarks provide a flicker of hope that he would return and [in so doing] would help restore calm to Lebanon,” the Iranian official said.
Qassemi also said Lebanon’s internal affairs were its own business and Iran wished stability and security for the Arab country.
Iran’s role in Syria
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman also said that Iran’s presence in Syria had been based on a request from the Damascus government.
“Once Daesh is routed, we (Iran and Syria) will continue cooperating, but the format of this strategic cooperation would change,” Qassemi said.
Iran has been offering the Syrian government advisory military help since conflict erupted in the country in 2011.
UK foreign minister due in Iran
Qassemi also announced that British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson would travel to Iran by the end of 2017.