Lebanon's Hariri: political scion and Hezbollah critic

Lebanese prime minister suggests he fears for his life, resigns

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Saturday, saying he believed there was an assassination plot against him and accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world.

CGTN's Yasser Hakim confirms Saudi intelligence convinced Hariri that his life could be in peril if he traveled back to Lebanon.

Hariri said Hezbollah and Iran had brought Lebanon into the "eye of a storm" of worldwide sanctions.

Hariri's "repetition of unreal and baseless accusations... against Iran show that the resignation is designed to create tensions in Lebanon and in the region", Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said.

Hariri has visited Saudi Arabia, a political foe of Iran and Hezbollah, twice in the past week, meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials.

Hariri became Lebanon's prime minister late a year ago after a political deal that also brought Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun to office as the country's president. The nation was without a cohesive government and leadership for almost two years.

It comes amid a sharp escalation in Saudi rhetoric against its regional archrival Iran and puts Lebanon at the centre of that rivalry.

It was not immediately clear whether Hariri meant to return to Lebanon.

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Hariri's first government finally collapsed in January 2011, when Hezbollah and its allies pulled their ministers from the cabinet.

After ending more than two years of political stalemate by backing a presidential bid by his rival Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun last year, Hariri returned to the prime minister's office in a bid to restore the standing of Lebanon's Sunni community and counterbalance Hezbollah's influence.

"We can not afford to fight the Iranians from Lebanon", he told Reuters, advocating an approach of compromise with Hezbollah in Lebanon while waiting for regional circumstances to allow Saudi-Iranian dialogue.

In the speech, the outgoing premier expressed fears that he could be assassinated like his father, former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, who was killed in an explosion in 2005.

Hariri was also locked in a standoff with Hezbollah over funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is prosecuting his father's murder and had implicated Hezbollah members.

A Saudi government minister said Hariri was in Riyadh to ensure his safety.

Hariri's words are explosive, said Gerges.

Maha Yahya, director of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East, said that with the Syrian war calming down, Hariri's move could be a message from Saudi Arabia to Iran that it "can't have it all". In a series of tweets, Sabhan criticized the Lebanese government for tolerating Hezbollah's criticism of the kingdom.

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