Saad Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister last week, says his country faces the risk of sanctions being imposed by Gulf Arab nations because of the Iran-backed Hizballah movement’s activities in Lebanon.
Hariri made the comments in a television interview from Saudi Arabia on November 12, a week after he announced from the Gulf country that he was stepping down from his post, saying he feared for his life in Lebanon.
He said his resignation was designed to "cause a positive shock" in the country, warning against Iranian interference which, he said, is ruining relations with other Arab countries.
"We know there are American sanctions [targeting Hizballah], but [do] we add to them also Arab sanctions?” he asked in the interview.
“What is our interest [in that] as Lebanese, because we see today interventions in Yemen and Bahrain by Iran and Hizballah."
"Where do we export our goods? Is it not to the Arab states? Where do our sons work...?" he said.
"We must work to preserve this interest, and this interest was threatened, so for this reason I did what I did," he added.
A coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia has broken all diplomatic and commercial ties with the tiny Gulf country of Qatar, claiming that it has too close ties to Iran and that it helps to finance regional terrorism.
Hariri, 47, a Sunni Muslim, claimed in his resignation speech on November 4 that Shi'ite-led Iran was using the Hizballah militia to spread its influence over Lebanon.
Amid rumors that he was being held against his will by the Saudis, Hariri said he would “very soon” return to Lebanon to resign in the “constitutional manner.
But he held out the possibility he could rescind his resignation if Hizballah agreed to stay out of regional conflicts, such as the bloody civil war in Yemen.
Lebanese officials have said Hariri's resignation has not been not accepted because it was declared while he was in Saudi Arabia.
Hariri’s actions have pushed Lebanon deeper into the conflict between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite-majority Iran.
Both countries are battling for influence in the region, and tensions have risen sharply after Riyadh on November 6 blamed Tehran for a missile fired by Yemeni rebels toward Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince accused Iran of "direct military aggression" by supplying missiles to Yemen’s Huthi Shi’ite rebels. The Saudis said they had intercepted the missile before it hit any targets.
Tehran has dismissed the allegations as "false and dangerous."
Hizballah is both a major political and independent military force in Lebanon.
U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Iran and Hizballah of supporting regional terrorism, and the U.S. Congress has placed sanctions on the militia, describing it as Tehran’s “terrorist proxy.”
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP