Jumblatt: Lebanon too weak for Hariri resignation

FILE PHOTO - Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt (centre L) and Saad al-Hariri (centre R) look on during the 36th presidential election session at the parliament building in Beirut, Lebanon March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon is too weak to bear the consequences of Saad al-Hariri’s resignation as prime minister and cannot afford to side against Iran, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said on Saturday after Hariri stepped down.

Hariri, an ally of Saudi Arabia, said there was an assassination plot against him and attacked Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah during his resignation speech on Saturday.

Hariri’s resignation thrusts Lebanon back onto the front line of Saudi-Iranian regional rivalry and seems likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions between Lebanese Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

“I am concerned about the economy, of course, and I am concerned about politics. We cannot afford to fight the Iranians from Lebanon,” Jumblatt told Reuters. He advocated compromise with Hezbollah in Lebanon while waiting for regional circumstances to allow Saudi-Iranian dialogue.

“Lebanon has enough problems. It is too weak for such a resignation, because it will have a tremendous negative impact,” said Jumblatt, one of Lebanon’s most influential politicians. He described Hariri’s resignation as “incomprehensible”.

The Druze are an important minority in Lebanon’s sectarian system of government. Jumblatt has frequently played kingmaker in Lebanese politics.

Reporting by Tom Perry; editing by Andrew Roche