November 17, 2017 / 10:45 AM / a month ago

Lebanon FM says Hariri crisis an attempt to create regional chaos

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said on Friday a crisis triggered by the resignation of its prime minister was part of an “attempt to create chaos in the region”, in an interview with Russia Today.

Saad al-Hariri quit as prime minister in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, saying he feared assassination and criticizing the Saudis’ regional arch-rival Iran along with its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

The actions of Hariri, a Sunni Muslim leader and long-time Saudi ally, plunged Lebanon into a political crisis, putting the country center stage in the rivalry.

He has yet to return to Beirut and is expected to leave Saudi Arabia this weekend for France, where he will meet with President Emmanuel Macron.

Bassil is touring European and other capitals seeking diplomatic help to end the crisis.

“We will respond and we have the full capacities to do so, but we hope it doesn’t get to that,” Bassil said in Moscow. His comments to Russia Today were reported earlier on Friday by Lebanese broadcasters al-Jadeed, al-Manar and LBC without attribution.

French officials said they did not know how long Hariri would stay before returning to Beirut, but hoped his visit would help ease the crisis by demonstrating he was not being held in Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Ellen Francis; Editing by Samia Nakhoul, John Stonestreet and Peter Graff

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