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Lebanese prime minister quits during visit to Saudi Arabia amid assassination fears

Lebanese prime minister quits during visit to Saudi Arabia amid assassination fears

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in a televised address while in Saudi Arabia, saying his life is in danger, Al Arabiya news channel reported Saturday.

"Iran's hand would be cut off", Hariri said, adding that "Lebanon would not play a role in destabilizing the region".

It thrust Lebanon into the front line of a regional competition between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran that has also buffeted Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.

"We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri. I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life".

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.

Jerusalem, Nov 4 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that the resignation of Lebanon's premier, and his stated reasons, should serve as an "alarm call" to the world about Iran's ambitions.

Hariri, who is closely allied with Saudi Arabia, alleged in a broadcast from an undisclosed location that Hezbollah was "directing weapons" at Yemenis, Syrians and Lebanese. "Hezbollah is Iran's arm not just in Lebanon but in other Arab countries too", Hariri said. The country's influence started to rise after the withdrawal of USA troops from Iraq in 2011, leaving behind an incomplete army and a pro-Iranian government.

Hezbollah is a vital ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war the Damascus regime is waging against the Islamic State group and armed opposition movements.

Hezbollah members have been accused over the 2005 assassination in a massive vehicle bomb blast of Rafik Hariri, the dominant figure in Lebanon's post-war political landscape. In 2016 he was appointed prime minister for the second tenure by president Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah.

Iran dismissed his accusations as "unfounded".

The February 2005 assassination triggered political upheaval that led to Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon.

"Despite my efforts, Iran continues to abuse Lebanon".

"Lebanon is a great country, governed by laws and protected by one army and their weapons". "It's part of an all-out Saudi confrontation with Iran", he said.

He said Hariri's move could start "a cold war in Lebanon that could escalate into a civil war" or even a regional offensive on Hezbollah.

Hariri's coalition, which took office past year, grouped almost all of Lebanon's main parties, including Hezbollah.

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