Lebanese prime minister quits over death plot

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives for a mass funeral of 10 Lebanese soldiers abducted in 2014 and killed by ISIS in Yarzeh near Beirut Lebanon Sept. 8 2017

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives for a mass funeral of 10 Lebanese soldiers abducted in 2014 and killed by ISIS in Yarzeh near Beirut Lebanon Sept. 8 2017

The Lebanese economy and pound are not in danger following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Saturday, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters.

The surprise move risks plunging the small and already fragile Middle Eastern country deeper into turmoil.

Taking up the prime minister's office last year, Mr Hariri promised a "new era for Lebanon" after two years of political deadlock. "I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life", he said. Social media were flooded with messages deriding him for choosing to resign from overseas and on a foreign channel.

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. The Lebanese government includes Hezbollah members.

"Iran has a grip on the fate of the region's countries..." He claimed Iran was interfering with affairs in other Arab states with help from Hezbollah, a Shiite political party and paramilitary force that holds seats in Lebanon's government.

He accused Tehran of "sowing discord among the children of the same nation and creating a state within the state... to the extent that it gets the final say on how Lebanon's affairs are run".

Addressing "Iran and its followers" he said Lebanon would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it".

He earlier said that those who cooperate with Hezbollah must be "punished". While Riyadh supports the Syrian opposition, Iran and Hezbollah are main backers of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime.

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That raised fears of a new conflict in the country, still scarred by its 1975-1990 civil war.

The coalition government he led brought together nearly all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

He was elected after Mr Hariri endorsed him for president, based on an agreement that he would make him as prime minister.

It may be recalled that Saad's father, then prime minister Rafik Hariri was in 2005 killed by triggering a massive roadside bomb as his convoy passed by.

He made his fortune in Saudi Arabia, where his son Saad was born. "This confrontation (between Saudi Arabia and Iran) is more violent than Lebanon can stand up to", he said, warning of economic and security ramifications.

In his speech in the Saudi capital, Hariri said the atmosphere in Lebanon was similar to the one that existed 12 years ago right before the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri also drew a comparison between the political situation in Lebanon today and in 2005. "It indicates the Saudi decision to confront Iran and the Iranian influence in Lebanon by going after Hezbollah".

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