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Hezbollah official on Saudi row: Lebanon won’t give in to threats

Hassan al-Baghdadi, a member of Hezbollah's Central Council

A senior official from the Hezbollah resistance movement says Lebanon will not succumb to threats in the wake of a diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia, which erupted late last month over criticism of the kingdom's deadly war on Yemen.

Hassan al-Baghdadi, a member of Hezbollah's Central Council, made the remarks on Wednesday amid mounting tensions between Beirut and Riyadh following critical comments by a Lebanese minister about the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

“Lebanon will continue to protect its national principles as well as the rights to defend its land and people, extract natural resources, and determine its borders fairly, and it will not retreat in the face of any pressure or threat,” al-Manar TV channel quoted him as saying.

“The problem of the US government and its allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, is that they have not learned from the past and it seems they still don’t intend to do so.”

Washington and its regional allies, Baghdadi added, “do not recognize the nature of Lebanon and Hezbollah and continue to bet on a hated group that is ready to sacrifice Lebanon for the sake of the country's enemies in exchange for money and false credibility. This is while the majority of the people of this country from different sects never compromise with anyone on their dignity and national wealth.”

On a TV program filmed in August and aired last week, Lebanon’s Information Minister George Kordahi, who was not appointed to the post back then, said the war in Yemen was an aggression by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He called the war “absurd,” saying it must stop because he is opposed to wars between Arabs.

He called the war on the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country “futile” and said it was “time for it to end.”

Kordahi also said the Yemeni army forces and their allied fighters from Popular Committees were “defending themselves... against an external aggression,” and that “homes, villages, funerals and weddings were being bombed” by the Saudi-led coalition.

Angered by the criticism, Saudi Arabia expelled Lebanon's ambassador, banned all imports from Lebanon and recalled its envoy for consultations. 

In solidarity with Riyadh, Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit by expelling the top envoys in their own capitals, while the United Arab Emirates withdrew all its diplomats from Beirut.

Speaking on Saturday, the top Saudi diplomat said the kingdom’s actions were driven not just by Kordahi's comments but rather were rooted in its objection to Hezbollah dominance over Lebanese politics.

"I think the issue is far broader than the current situation," Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Reuters in a phone interview. "I think it's important that the government in Lebanon or the Lebanese establishment forges a path forward that frees Lebanon from the current political construct, which reinforces the dominance of Hezbollah."

Hezbollah a component of Lebanese politics: FM

On Tuesday, Lebanon's Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said Saudi Arabia was dictating impossible terms by asking the government to reduce the role of Hezbollah.

"If they just want Hezbollah's head on a plate, we can't give them that," he told Reuters. "Hezbollah is a component of politics in Lebanon. It has a regional armed dimension, yes, but this is beyond what we can resolve.”

Bou Habib also stressed that he believed mutual dialog was the only way forward to solving the dispute, adding, however, that there had been no meetings on any level between both parties since the new Lebanese cabinet was formed on September 10.

"There has been no dialog (with Saudi Arabia) even before the problem with minister Kordahi ... the Saudi ambassador here never communicated with us," he said.

"We need to know what they want... we prefer dialog to dictates."

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