Hezbollah's criticism of Saudi Arabia not in Lebanon's interest, says PM

Lebanese leader has called for group to stop 'hateful sectarian and political rhetoric'

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati rebuked Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah for his comments, distancing himself from the group. AP

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's recent verbal attack on Saudi Arabia does not serve Lebanon's national interest or represent the country's official stance, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Monday.

The comments come as Lebanese authorities are trying to mend relations with Saudi Arabia that hit a new low in October when the kingdom recalled its ambassador from Beirut and banned all Lebanese imports.

The Saudi move followed comments by a Lebanese Cabinet minister who said in a televised interview that the war in Yemen was futile and called it "an aggression" by the Saudi-led coalition.

A number of other Gulf states also withdrew ambassadors and expelled Lebanese envoys over what they said was Hezbollah's dominance of Lebanon.

In a speech on Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah lashed out at Saudi Arabia accusing it of being responsible for terrorism.

In response, Mr Mikati rebuked the leader for his comments, distancing himself from the group.

“What … Nasrallah said about the kingdom of Saudi Arabia this evening does not represent the position of the Lebanese government and most Lebanese. It is not in Lebanon's interest to offend any Arab country, especially the Gulf states," said Mr Mikati.

“For God's sake, have mercy on Lebanon and the Lebanese people and stop the hateful sectarian and political rhetoric.”

Lebanese officials including President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, and Mr Mikati have called for dialogue with Saudi Arabia to resolve the ongoing diplomatic crisis, which added burden to an economic meltdown now in its third year.

Saudi Arabia has called on Lebanon to end “terrorist Hezbollah's” influence over the state.

The Sunni Mr Mikati's government has several ministers backed by Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement.

The Lebanese prime minister formed a government in September with the aim of negotiating an International Monetary Fund support programme and kick-starting economic recovery.

But he has been unable to convene the Cabinet since October 12 amid demands by Hezbollah and Amal to limit the probe into the deadly August 2020 Beirut blast.

Updated: January 4th 2022, 9:23 AM