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Saudi envoy hits back at Hezbollah over Islamic coalition

THE LEVANT NEWS — BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri Friday slammed Hezbollah over its criticisms of the Saudi-led Islamic coalition announced earlier this week, saying that they misunderstand its aims.

“Saudi Arabia’s decision stems from its own convictions to preserve the interests of the Arab and Islamic nations,” Asiri said in a statement issued by his press office.

Without naming the group, he accused Hezbollah of carrying out projects “aimed at fragmenting the region, dividing Arabs and inciting sectarian sedition.”

The Saudi envoy said “Lebanon is suffering from terrorism and confronting it. Fighting terrorism could be through various means, such as forming a military force.”

“Moderate religious rhetoric and the role of media … are means to confront terrorism,” he added.

“That Saudi Arabia respects Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence and its freedom of decision doesn’t require any proof. What is surprising is that some of the voices that criticized the kingdom’s decision are those that the Lebanese public constantly accuse of violating national sovereignty and confiscating the state’s decision.”

His remarks came one day after Hezbollah accused the coalition of being an American project. Hezbollah said the “suspicious” alliance aims to bring certain armed forces into the region under sectarian pretenses so that the U.S. would not have to send its troops.

“It is not surprising to anyone that Saudi Arabia is committing terrorism itself, as it did in Yemen, as well as with its support for terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, backed by nations that are part of this alliance now which are committing the same crimes,” the statement said.

“Will this new alliance fight Israel, which is continuing its attacks and terrorism against the Palestinian people, or fight those fighting Israel?” it added.

The statement said Hezbollah was surprised by Saudi Arabia including Lebanon in the list of nations joining the coalition without anyone in Lebanon knowing about it. That move, it added, constituted a violation of Lebanon’s Constitution.

The Foreign Ministry Tuesday released a statement saying it had no knowledge of an Islamic alliance being established, let alone that Lebanon was a part of it. Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi also rejected that Lebanon be part of the Islamic alliance, arguing that the country was secular. But Prime Minister Tammam Salam Wednesday rejected those criticisms, saying he had the authority to welcome the Saudi move, but conceded that ultimately Lebanon’s participation in the coalition was up to the Cabinet.

Hezbollah Thursday said Salam’s remarks “only represented his personal opinion,” and that the premier could not make such a decision without the approval of Cabinet, adding that such a decision would also need legislative approval.

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday the formation of the coalition, which it said included 34 nations to fight “terrorism” with a joint operations center based in the kingdom’s capital, Riyadh.

Although Hezbollah is not technically considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is a fierce opponent of the party and has on many occasions blacklisted members and institutions affiliated to it.

While Hezbollah has on several occasions accused Riyadh of supporting terrorist groups such as Daesh (ISIS), Riyadh says Hezbollah is conspiring with Iran in the region, criticizing its interference in the Syrian war.

Source: The Daily Star

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