Aoun Holds Talks With Lebanese Political Leaders

Aoun Holds Talks With Lebanese Political LeadersAoun Holds Talks With Lebanese Political Leaders

Lebanese President Michel Aoun convened talks on Monday with political leaders over the future of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s government after he postponed his shock resignation.

A senior Lebanese official said the consultations at the presidential palace in Baabda aimed to help Hariri’s government “get back on its feet”, after weeks of political instability triggered by Hariri’s Nov. 4 resignation, announced in Riyadh, Reuters reported.

Lebanese officials say Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to resign and held him against his will, triggering an intervention by France which led to his return to Beirut last week.

Riyadh says Hariri, Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim politician and a long-time Saudi ally, resigned freely and denies holding him.

In his resignation speech, Hariri strongly criticized Iran and Hezbollah for allegedly meddling in the Arab world. Since returning to Beirut, Hariri has said all Lebanese must stick by the state policy of “disassociation”, or keeping out of regional conflicts —a reference to Hezbollah.

Speaking during a meeting with the Higher Islamic Council, the official body for the country’s Sunni Muslims, on Saturday, Hariri stressed that Lebanon was being targeted and that it risked being dragged into chaos.

He said “as we have previously announced on several occasions, we will not accept Hezbollah’s positions that affect our Arab brothers or target the security and stability of their countries,” Al Jazeera reported.

Leading Druze politician Walid Jumblatt, an influential figure in Lebanon, said after meeting Aoun that it was important to talk about “disassociation”, and how to achieve it.

He said it would be wise not to bring up the question of Hezbollah’s weapons in discussions, referring to previous rounds of futile talks on this point.

The senior Lebanese official said the “consultations might end with Lebanon reaffirming the ministerial statement that implicitly includes disassociation”. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as Aoun’s consultations were not over.

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