Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in New York Friday for talks with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz who is recuperating from an operation, according to local reports.
The reports also say that Hariri’s visit to New York is aimed at bringing about a breakthrough to the Lebanese crisis and the immediate implementation of what was agreed upon between the King of Saudi Arabia and the Syrian President.
Hariri is also planning to meet on Saturday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was scheduled to meet with the Saudi king following his recovery from the operation.
Hariri said during an interview with the Al-Hayat newspaper that was published on Friday that the Saudi-Syrian (S-S) agreement on reducing tension in Lebanon had been finalized a long time ago, even before King Abdullah , traveled to New York for the treatment but blamed Hezbollah and its March 8 allies for not living up to their end of the deal.
Hariri also said : “ I will not implement any commitment I made before the other party implements what it said it would commit to and added ‘anything else is an attempt to sabotage the Saudi-Syrian efforts.”
” This is the major base of the Syrian-Saudi efforts”. Hariri stressed
Hariri’s remarks drew an drew an angry response from Hezbollah and its March 8 allies.
“Hariri’s statements on Hezbollah’s failure to commit to the Saudi-Syrian agreement are accusatory,” Hezbollah Minister Mohammed Fneish said on Friday in response to Hariri’s statements during the interview with al Hayat newspaper.
“These statements do not help. They are an accusation and do not help in the implementation of the Saudi-Syrian initiative,” Fneish added.
Similarly Hezbollah’s ally speaker Nabih Berri also criticized Hariri
“Everyone knows that the current crisis is due to a politicized investigation. The party that is required to do something about this is well-known. It is definitely not the March 8 coalition,” Speaker Nabih Berri said on Friday in response to Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s statement to Al-Hayat newspaper.
Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal , who is a member of Hariri’s Future Movement, defended on Friday the Prime Minister’s statements to the Al-Hayat calling them “the right thing to say’ given Lebanon’s current circumstances and provides “protection for the Syrian-Saudi settlement to overcome the current crisis.”
“What Prime Minister Hariri said is the right thing to say. But we do not know whether Speaker Nabih Berri knows details of this settlement until now.”
In his interview with Al Hayat, Hariri warned that he would not honor his commitments under the Saudi-Syrian-brokered deal unless Hezbollah and its allies did so first.
“The Saudi-Syrian process requires several positive steps of which the other side has taken none so far. No one should use the presence of the Saudi king in New York as an excuse not to act because what has been agreed upon happened a month before the king’s illness,” Hariri said.
“Let it be perfectly clear , any commitment on my part will not be carried out before the other side implements what it has agreed to. This is the focal point of the Saudi-Syrian efforts,” he added and stressed that the other side knows exactly what specific steps to take .
Hariri said he decided to break his months-long silence to defend the Saudi-Syrian process against a campaign aimed at distorting it. “I have kept silent for months. Now, I have broken silence just because I am responsible and concerned with protecting this process in the interest of the country and its stability.”
Hariri did not reveal the details of the Saudi-Syrian deal, but his political adviser, Mohammad Shatah, said during an interview on Friday that the Saudi-Syrian deal is aimed at achieving stability in Lebanon, by taking specific steps to reduce political tension, such as restoring contacts between Lebanese factions, ensuring that state institutions return to serving the public and following up on the issue of Lebanese-Syrian ties.
Hariri dismissed fears of sectarian strife as a result of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon ( STL) indictment.“I believe that our national unity is the only way to protect and fortify Lebanon in the face of dangers, ” he stressed
Hariri also ruled out a Cabinet change and stressed that only a national unity Cabinet can save Lebanon, and vowed not to abandon any of his allies in the March 14 coalition.
March 14 General Secretariat Coordinator Fares Soueid is concerned that Hezbollah may commit a “blunder” following the announcement of the indictment by STL
In an interview with “Orient” TV he said : “If an agreement on Lebanon is reached between Syria and Saudi Arabia which forces the Prime Minister to give up on justice, this will spell the end of the Sunni moderates in Lebanon and the emergence of extreme right”
Photo: ( File photo) Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) is expected to meet with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz (R) in New York on Saturday