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Hariri: The biggest grant Iran could offer to Lebanon is to ask Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria

BEIRUT |, with agencies - November 28, 2014, 08h04
Photo: National News Agency
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday evening said that he is in favor of a “serious dialogue that will lead to results, for Lebanon’s sake”. In a live interview from his residence in Paris with “Kalam en-Nass” on LBCI, Hariri stated that the main objectives of the dialogue with Hezbollah would be to agree on the fact that a consensual president is the only solution, and to defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions.
Thursday's interview was preceded by a report about the daily activities of ex Premier Hariri, which showed excerpts of a videoconference meeting with Future movement general secretary Ahmed Hariri, former minister Raya el-Hassan and others officials in the Movement, about the projects financed by the aid presented by premier Hariri to Tripoli and the North.

Asked why he chose this timing to give the interview, Hariri said: “Everyone has concerns in Lebanon, security, economic and psychological ones. The country is tragically regressing. We saw in your report the lights and life in Paris. I believe that Lebanon can be like this. I tell the Lebanese, especially the Lebanese youth who consider emigrating, that we will not give up, that we believe in this country. When the bombs were falling on Beirut, Rafik Hariri was cleaning up the country and rebuilding it. We should not lose hope. The dream of the Lebanese who took to the streets on March 14, 2005, will come true. I believe in God, in this country and in the Lebanese.”

Hariri gave details on the spending of the one-billion dollars Saudi grant, announcing that “letters of credit of 400 million dollars have already been issued, and the rest is on its way”. Regarding the Iran proposal to assist Lebanon, he said that “the most important grant that Iran could offer to the Lebanese people and the Lebanese army is to ask Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria”.

Asked why he came to Beirut last August, and left again, he answered: “I came because I am a responsible person. And I will come back. Only I will decide when. But it will be very soon”.

Hariri clarified that one of the reasons he left again was to follow up on the one-billion dollars Saudi grant to Lebanon.

Concerning the 3-billion dollars Saudi grant, Hariri said that “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz surprised the Lebanese and the world by granting Lebanon three billion dollars, and the one who exerted efforts to that end was President Michel Sleiman. Some tried to say that the grant was delayed, but it’s three billion dollars, and some grants and loans given by some countries have been in the drawers of the Lebanese Parliament for nine or ten years now. This agreement is between three countries and this grant is to build the Lebanese Army. Once this grant is implemented, we will have a modern and well-equipped Army.”

He added that the events in Arsal drove the Saudi king to give the one-billion dollars grant to help Lebanon fight terrorism. Hariri announced that “letters of credit of 400 million dollars have already been issued, and the rest is on its way”.

He explained that the Lebanese Army and the security forces announced what they wanted, after that “we went to friendly countries and put these requests and the prices came from these States. The concerned ministers with the Prime Minister and a team from my side are studying the prices and specifications and when the Lebanese government and the Premier agree on the prices and specifications, we immediately open the letters of credit, but this takes time. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been generous with Lebanon. In the name of the Lebanese people and my name we thank the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and the Kingdom for these grants, which are for the security forces that are responsible for the security of all the Lebanese, from the South to the North. Saudi Arabia is at the service of all Lebanon.”

Asked why he did not thank Iran, which also offered to give an assistance to the Lebanese army, he replied that the most important grant that Iran could give to the Lebanese people and the Lebanese army is to ask Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria.

Hariri denied rumors about differences with the French government because French companies did not get contracts related to the one-billion dollars grant, adding: “I am keen to have competitive prices and transparency in this issue. The Security forces and the army informed us of their requests; we looked for countries that produce what they need and asked for prices. We issued the letters of credits to those that gave the best prices according to the specifications”.

Asked why he proposed a dialogue, he answered: “I called for national consultations so that we protect this country from risks. The dialogue must happen, so we can say that there are things we disagree on. My problem with Hezbollah is its engagement in the Syrian war, the International Tribunal, arming the Resistance Brigades, the actions of the party and its weapons, and its lack of cooperation with the security plan in the Bekaa. There are radical differences and I will not change my position on these subjects. However, the interests of the country are more important than the interests of Saad Hariri”.

He explained that he supports a dialogue that is in the interest of the country, adding: “I want a President, parliamentary elections, to improve our economy, to save the country and its institutions. And if we go to dialogue, I want to have serious a dialogue, that will lead to results”.

Hariri explained that the agenda of the dialogue will be prepared with Parliament speaker Nabih Berry and MP Walid Jumblatt, adding that the dialogue will not be on the name of the next president but to agree on the fact that a consensual president is the solution for Lebanon. He added that no date has been set for the dialogue.

He said that “although there are Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, problems are only happening in Lebanon because there is a Lebanese faction that involved itself in the Syrian civil war and put Lebanon in a difficult position. We suffered from the Syrian intervention in Lebanon, so what are we doing now? We support the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition on the humanitarian and political levels. But when the opposition does something wrong, I will say it, and I will not remain silent when I feel that Lebanon’s interest is being harmed. My only interest is Lebanon and the Lebanese and I am ready to sacrifice myself just as my father did for Lebanon’s sake.”

Hariri admitted that there are Sunni – Shiite tensions in Lebanon and that one of the dialogue’s objectives is to contain them.

He said: “There are constants regarding preserving the State, its institutions, the Presidency and the parliamentary elections. It would be good to reach an agreement in the dialogue. I requested consultations and Hezbollah said that it is ready to go for a bilateral dialogue. I am ready to have a bilateral dialogue in the national interest. The national dialogue should be launched by the President of the Republic and we support any communication between the Lebanese in the interest of Lebanon. Hezbollah talks about unconditional dialogue and we don’t want to talk about conditions. Parliament Speaker Berry is exerting efforts to achieve this. There will be an agenda but it is not ready yet.”

On the possibility of a meeting between him and Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Premier Hariri said that it is still too early to answer this point and the meeting will not happen now. “What will happen now is dialogue between some members of Hezbollah and some members of the Future Movement. And if we elect a President, this means that we succeeded in the dialogue”.

Asked about previous remarks he had made about Hezbollah, and how the Future supporters would accept the dialogue today, he said: “I don’t work for my personal interest or the interest of the Future Movement but for the interest of the country. Last week we heard the testimony of Marwan Hamade at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and saw how much Rafik Hariri beared for the sake of the Lebanese people and it is my duty to bear too because the people gave me their votes.”

Why does he want a dialogue that would lead nowhere? He said: “If I said I don’t want dialogue, tension will increase in the country. It is my duty to give hope and we are serious. Let the others bear the responsibility should dialogue turn out to be non-serious. I see that the country’s interest is more important that refusing the dialogue. I am looking for a solution in the country’s interest.”

Asked about the lost opportunity of dialogue with MP Michel Aoun, he said that “general Aoun is a political component in the country and no one can eliminate the other. We cooperated with him and this led to several achievements including the formation of the government and several appointments that were frozen for years. We talked with Michel Aoun, but did anyone from March 8 talked to the candidate of March 14, Samir Geagea?”

What would be the road map for the next period? Hariri answered: “Sunni –Shiite tensions should be alleviated and Hezbollah should know the reasons behind these tensions. This is very important because if an explosion happens in this regard there will be no presidency or country. This is one of the most important things to be included in the dialogue, and there is the issue of electing the president. After that, there will be consultations and there will be elections. I objected the parliamentary elections because this meant reaching a stage where we will have no president, no house speaker and no government. This meant reaching a vacuum and I don’t want that. I feared the country would be moving towards a new constituent conference. We are with the Taef accord and we have fought hundreds of battles to preserve it. Hezbollah suggested this conference but we rejected it because we are with Islamic-Christian parity and against trilateral power sharing. Why do we have to go to a constituent assembly when we have a constitution? We fought for the Taef accord so why go toward the unknown?”

He added: “General Aoun has a problem with “March 14” because he couldn’t become a President. Just as “March 14” has a problem with Michel Aoun’s candidacy, “March 8” has a problem with that of Samir Geagea. We talked with Michel Aoun but they didn’t talk with Samir Geagea and there is no consensus on both of them, so let us agree on a consensual president. Samir Geagea announced that if there is an agreement on a consensual president he will withdraw. The problem is that “March 8” didn’t go to parliament to elect a new president. I talked with Maronite Patriarch Al-Rai about a road map. We have historic relations with Bkerki and there are differences in opinion and this is natural. The Patriarch considers that the MPs who were able to extend the term of the Parliament could have elected the president and this is the main problem.”

Asked if the Saudis put a veto on MP Michel Aoun, Hariri replied that Saudi Arabia does not put vetoes on anyone, and that in any case he is not a spokesperson for Saudi Arabia. He added that all countries, including Iran, say that the Lebanese Christians should agree on a president. Hariri added that the democratic game should take place, and reminded that “our candidate is Samir Geagea, but if Amin Gemayel or Boutros Harb or another is able to get 70 or 75 votes, and there is a quorum, Samir Geagea will not be displeased. If any March 14 candidate can get a quorum and votes, we will support him”.

Hariri said that he will not get into names. He explained that “there is no consensus within March 14 in favor of Aoun. Is there a consensus in favor of Samir Geagea in March 8?” He added: “We were wrong when we did not speak with Michel Aoun, we should have spoken with Michel Aoun during the previous stages for the sake of the country. I think that General Aoun can offer more than he can imagine to Lebanon and the Lebanese people”.

Hariri added that the consensual candidate has to be approved by everyone. He has to be a candidate who can speak with everyone and whose priority is Lebanon’s interest.

About his personal relationship with Aoun, Hariri said it is excellent and hoped that it will remain so, adding that there is an interest for the Free Popular Movement to collaborate with the Future Movement.

Hariri hoped that the Iranian role in the region would become positive and in the interest of the peoples of the region, adding that Iran should stop thinking that it can control Syria and Lebanon. Hariri also added that the Assad regime will end sooner or later, and that this regime created the Islamic State in Syria, as did Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq.

Hariri said that "March 14" represents the people and is much larger than the parties in it, larger than the "Future Movement", the "Lebanese forces" party, and the "Kataeb". He noted that the Lebanese Sunnis are moderate and part of the Lebanese moderates, adding that the Sunnis are the ones who embraced the Army in the regions where it was attacked by extremists.

Concerning the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Hariri said that he agrees with every word spoken by MP Marwan Hamade at the Hague, adding that “we chose the road of justice, and it’s the hard one, whereas the road of revenge is easier”.

About the performance of the Lebanese army in fighting terrorism, Hariri said that the Lebanese army made great efforts and suffered heavy losses, and our concern is to support the army to confront and protect Lebanon.

Hariri explained that “we will respect the decision of the Constitutional Council regarding the appeal to challenge the extension of Parliament term, but we will think about our political stance”.
Regarding the parliamentary electoral law, he said “we abide by the election law that we agreed on with the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party. In the end we will definitely reach an agreement on an election law.”

When asked about President Amine Gemayel’s call to coordinate with the Syrian regime on the issues of refugees and security, he said that he is against it because “Bashar Assad is terrorism. We should cooperate with the international alliance against IS and hopefully against Bashar Assad. What he did in Lebanon and what he is doing in Syria asserts the impossibility of talking to him. I have a clear stance. Bashar Assad’s regime doesn’t want Lebanon to be in a good position; if he really wanted that he wouldn’t have asked Hezbollah to help him.”

In response to a question regarding Hezbollah prisoner swap, he said that the problem “is that Hezbollah has the right to do so while others don’t. As for the families of kidnapped soldiers, I think that they said the most important and sincerest words regarding this issue. I support the government in any stance it takes in this subject. Our problem here is that everyone has something to say. It is the responsibility of the government to carry out what it decides and I am ready to support Premier Tammam Salam and the government in any decision they take, and it should be a brave decision. What is important for me is the result. The final result is to bring the soldiers back to their families.”

Asked if there is a possibility to lead an international campaign to help Lebanon in the issue of the Syrian refugees, Premier Hariri said “this is a tragic problem in the country, with the existence of one and a half million refugees who entered Lebanon because they faced death. The main problem in Lebanon is that there is dispute regarding the establishment of refugee camps. I know the sensitivity of this subject but we should do something that all politicians should agree upon. We are talking with all the States to help Lebanon and the refugees because it is beyond our capacity.”

Regarding the Syrian conflict, he explained that “things in Syria are very complicated. We know the solution put by the Syrian opposition, which includes the removal of the regime, fighting IS and the establishment of a democratic regime. I say that we should protect Lebanon from the risks of the Syrian war, and look for our interests. I am sure that Bashar Assad will go but I don’t know when.”
Hariri responded to a question regarding his visit to Syria, by saying that “there was an interest for Lebanon. I didn’t go as Saad Hariri but as the Prime Minister of Lebanon. Today, I know that this man is a liar, He lied to everyone and thought he can continue lying. His end will be similar to that of presidents whose people revolted against.”

He said: “Our goal is to preserve Lebanon, and we have projects, a vision and a dream for Lebanon and especially its youth. I say that 99% of young people are not extremists, and they are losing hope in this country but they shouldn’t because Lebanon will prevail despite all the difficulties.”

Asked about his feelings after ten years of absence of Rafik Hariri, he said that his absence meant the absence of safety and the absence of the one we depended on in difficult times.
#SaadHariri, #Kalam_ennass, #Saudi_grant, #Hezbollah, #Iran, #Syria
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