RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Lebanon’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Saturday, citing an assassination plot against him and accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world.
His resignation thrusts Lebanon back into the frontline of Saudi-Iranian regional rivalry and seems likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions between Lebanese Sunni and Shia Muslims.
It also shatters a coalition government formed last year after years of political deadlock, and which was seen as representing a victory for Shia Hezbollah and Iran.
Hariri, who is closely allied with Saudi Arabia, alleged in a televised broadcast that Hezbollah was “directing weapons” at Yemenis, Syrians and Lebanese and said the Arab world would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it”.
Hariri’s coalition, which took office last year, grouped nearly all of Lebanon’s main political parties, including his Future Movement and Hezbollah.
“We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of (his father the late prime minister) martyr Rafik al-Hariri. I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life,” Hariri said.
Rafik al-Hariri was killed in a 2005 Beirut waterfront bomb attack that also killed 21 other people, shaking the country and pushing his son Saad into politics.
In a statement read from an undisclosed location, Hariri said Hezbollah and Iran had brought Lebanon into the “eye of a storm” of international sanctions.
President Michel Aoun’s office said Hariri had called him from “outside Lebanon” to inform him of his resignation.
Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia on Friday after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, the top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Afterwards, Velayati described Hariri’s coalition as “a victory” and “great success”.