BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri hinted over the weekend that he might return to Lebanon in the spring for the presidential election and defended his party against allegations that it was meddling in the Syrian crisis.
“My return to Lebanon is dependent on the political and security moment I see fit. We have presidential elections that should take place and I will not be absent from it and I will be a part of it,” Hariri told an Egyptian channel during a television interview in Cairo.
“I will not set a date for my return to Lebanon because that’s dangerous, but I will return very soon,” the head of the Future Movement said.
“There is presidential election in Lebanon and I have repeatedly said that we will not allow a vacuum in that post. I am serious about that and at that moment you will see Saad Hariri in Lebanon,” he added.
Hariri left Lebanon in early 2011, months after the collapse of his National Unity government. He has repeatedly cited security concerns for his absence.
Hariri also spoke about the negotiations which led to the formation of a new government in Lebanon, saying deteriorating security and sectarian divisions prompted him to “make sacrifices to safeguard Lebanon.”
“ ... Tensions and divisions between Lebanese Sunnis and Shiites have reached unprecedented levels and this presents to us major challenges to prevent the country from exploding,” he said.
“There is no doubt that there is a radical difference between us and Hezbollah but we have a political role to play for the sake of the country and the people,” Hariri added.
He also voiced optimism that Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government would draft a policy statement and be granted Parliament’s vote of confidence, despite disputes over the ministerial statement.
“I think this government will be granted Parliament’s vote of confidence and they will find ways to swiftly draft the policy statement because there are people in Lebanon who have the skills to find a smooth way out,” he said.
He also reiterated his refusal to include the tripartite formula of the “Army, the people and the resistance” in the policy statement.
Hariri also repeated his demand that Hezbollah withdraw from Syria.
“Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria will do away with the justification these suicide bombers use to attack Lebanon,” he said, adding that the country can no longer tolerate the “repercussions” of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.
“In Lebanon, there are young men who were not particularly organized but who saw the massacres in Syria and joined Al-Qaeda, ISIS or and similar groups in Syria. They were brainwashed and turned into ticking time bombs, carrying out suicide attacks in Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s interference,” he added.
Hariri also defended the March 14 coalition, particularly the Future Movement, from Hezbollah’s allegations that they were funding and arming opposition groups.
“We support the opposition politically, but we do not arm it or recruit fighters for it. We do not have the capability to do so,” he said.
“Our ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries and Egypt have always been distinctive but they don’t arm the March 14 coalition or the Future Movement."