Lebanon FM skips Arab League summit on Iran
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Sunday was conspicuous by his absence at an emergency Arab League summit, which Saudi Arabia has called to discuss “confronting” Iran and Hezbollah.
Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo, but a Lebanese Foreign Ministry source told the French news agency that Bassil would not be among them.
“This morning, a decision was taken that Lebanon would be presented by Antoine Azzam, the permanent representative to the Arab League,” the source said, adding “Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil will not be present.”
Reuters also quoted a “senior Lebanese official” as saying Saturday that Bassil, anticipating confrontation at the Cairo meeting, would not go to Egypt.
Bassil has been shuttling across Europe to mobilize support for the return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri whose surprise resignation in Saudi Arabia has plunged the country into political turmoil.
Sources close to Hariri say he has been forced to step down for “refusing to confront Hezbollah” as demanded by Saudi leaders.
Riyadh associates Hezbollah with Iran, and has been trying to weaken the resistance movement which is Lebanon’s de facto deterrent force against any Israeli aggression.
Hezbollah, both a military force and a political movement, is part of a Lebanese government made up of rival factions.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. Senior Lebanese politicians close to Hariri have also said he was coerced into resigning.
AFP said it had seen a document last week, which showed the Saudi request for the Arab League meeting “was based on a missile it says its air defenses intercepted near Riyadh after being fired from Yemen on November 4.”
Saudi Arabia has claimed that the missile had been manufactured in Iran but Tehran has vehemently rejected the allegation.
On Friday, the US-based investigative website The Intercept said a panel appointed by the UN Security Council had found no evidence to attribute missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi fighters to external sources.
The panel made the conclusion in a confidential assessment sent to Security Council diplomats on November 10, the report said.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA said the Arab League meeting on Sunday was convened at the Saudi request with support from the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait to discuss means of confronting what they deemed as Iranian intervention.
Saudi Arabia is under rising international pressure over Hariri’s mysterious sojourns in Riyadh. After initially assuring that he would return to Beirut soon, Hariri flew to Paris with his wife Saturday while leaving their two children behind in Saudi Arabia.
Hariri’s saga has angered many Lebanese who deem it an affront to their country and a blatant interference by Saudi Arabia in their domestic affairs.