Hariri Hits Back after Velayati Remarks on Their Meeting
Prime Minister Saad Hariri snapped back Tuesday at a senior Iranian official over remarks about their recent meeting in Beirut.
“Hariri's latest statements were Saudi diktats,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, chief foreign policy adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei, referring to Hariri's TV interview on Sunday.
“Hariri did not at all say during our latest meeting that Iran should not interfere in Lebanon's affairs,” Velayati added.
“Hariri did not talk about Iranian interference in Lebanon's affairs... and our talks were neither bitter nor characterized by threats and confrontation. His remarks (on Sunday) were dictated by the Saudis, who are not ready to allow Lebanon to enjoy security and stability or to witness friendship between the Iranian and Lebanese peoples,” the Iranian official added.
“We did not threaten Hariri and we rather discussed the current issues in the region. He somehow wanted to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia and we said that we do not have a problem with Saudi Arabia,” Velayati said.
“We said that the Saudis' bombardment of Yemen for more than two years, besieging it and causing 700,000 cholera infections are issues that have nothing to do with politics. We said that they should negotiate with the Yemenis over this humanitarian issues,” Velayati added.
Hariri issued a swift response to the Iranian official's remarks.
“Prime Minister Hariri did not offer to mediate between any country and another. He rather expressed to Velayati his point of view, which is the need to stop Iran’s intervention in Yemen as a first step and a precondition to any improvement of the relations between Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Hariri's press office said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Premier Hariri reiterated insistently that this is his personal point of view,” it added.
“When Velayati replied that he sees dialogue on the Yemeni crisis as a good starting point for dialogue between Iran and the kingdom, Prime Minister Hariri answered him: 'No, Yemen comes before dialogue. I think that solving the problem in Yemen is the only way to start any dialogue between you and the kingdom,'” Hariri's office said.
In his first TV interview since he announced his surprise resignation on November 4 from Riyadh, Hariri said Sunday he will return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia "within days" to seek a settlement with President Michel Aoun and Iran-backed Hizbullah.
Hariri repeated several times that he resigned to create a "positive shock" and draw attention to the danger of siding with Iran in regional conflicts.
Hariri sounded less belligerent in Sunday's interview than he did during the resignation announcement.
A political crisis has gripped Lebanon since Hariri read his televised resignation in which he accused Iran of meddling in Lebanon in a vicious tirade that was uncharacteristic of the usually soft-spoken premier.