MARONITE Catholic Cardinal Bechara al-Rai flew to Saudi Arabia for talks yesterday, saying that the return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri would help restore normal life to Lebanon.
He said before leaving that the Lebanese people have been “unsettled” since Mr Hariri’s resignation earlier this month, adding that he would raise the matter with the Saudi king and crown prince.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin reaffirmed his government’s backing yesterday for Lebananese President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri.
“Lebanon will overcome the difficulties due to the social cohesion of the Lebanese people,” he said.
Under the confessional constitution foisted on Lebanon by French colonialism, all governments in Beirut must have a Maronite president, a Shi’ite speaker and a Sunni prime minister.
The televised resignation of Mr Hariri, a Saudi ally with dual citizenship, in Riyadh, sparked regional disquiet after he read a prepared speech attacking resistance group Hezbollah and expressing fears for his safety.
Mr Hariri’s father Rafic Hariri was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005 that was attributed to Hezbollah but is widely believed to have been carried out by Israeli special forces.
The resignation speech was followed by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain ordering their citizens to leave Lebanon immediately, raising alarm that a military attack on Lebanon was in the offing.
Irish Senator Michael McDowell, a previous minister in a Fine Gael government, laid bare the previously suspected close alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel in Sunday’s Business Post.
He revealed that, following the resignation broadcast, “immediately and on cue, the Israeli Foreign Ministry secretly cabled all its ambassadors worldwide to urgently contact the ‘highest officials’ to ‘ramp up’ the pressure against Iran … claiming that Tehran was engaging in ‘regional subversion’ and calling for the expulsion of Hezbollah from the Lebanese coalition and politics.”
This ploy, jointly authored by Tel Aviv and Riyadh, to spark unrest in the region, was spiked by officials opposed to Benjamin Netanyahu’s adventurism leaking the secret cable to Israel’s Channel 10 and setting in train US warnings that Israel should not let itself be sucked into a Saudi-provoked war.