HARIRI: IN FAVOR OF THE “LEBANON FIRST” POLICY, TO AVOID PAYING THE PRICE OF THE US-IRANIAN CONFLICT

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri described his relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in general as excellent, adding that these countries are the real friends who stood by Lebanon during all the crises and wars that it went through, and it is necessary that we remain in constant contact with them to obtain their support and assistance to Lebanon. He called for adopting the “Lebanon first” policy and keeping Lebanon neutral regarding the Iranian-American conflict. He said: “Lebanon and the Lebanese people must come first, before every cause that surrounds us. Before Syria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran and every other cause, so that the citizen can have a decent life.”
In a chat with reporters this afternoon at the Center House, he asked “What is the difference between disassociation and neutrality?”, pointing out that the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati adopted the concept of disassociation unanimously, including its Hezbollah members. We applied this, but did Hezbollah apply it?”
Asked to comment on the allegation by Prime Minister Hassan Diab that a head of party is interfering with Arab countries to prevent them from helping Lebanon, Hariri said: “It is regrettable that the premiership says this. The level of its discourse has really decreased. This is unacceptable. Our history, as Saad Hariri or Rafic Hariri, shows that we always helped without asking. The Hariri Foundation was built on assisting without asking, and I certify that I did not call anyone. I will not enter into an argument with him, because the position of prime minister has been “ridiculed”.
Question: Al-Joumhouriya newspaper said that you contacted the Kuwaiti Prime Minister for this purpose ans that the Kuwaitis were the ones who told PM Diab
Hariri: I did not contact anyone. I do not know where he gets these news from. Perhaps it was his Arab brothers in Syria who told him, because no one talks to him.
Question: How do you view the visits of Major General Abbas Ibrahim to Arab countries?
Hariri: This must take place. We are in the Arab League, and these are the true friends who stood by Lebanon throughout the previous stage and in all the crises that Lebanon experienced. The Gulf has not abandoned Lebanon in all the wars that took place on its soil. Who stood with Lebanon and who was advancing the Lebanese economy? Who else than Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and all these countries? But today it is clear that there is an unprecedented regional escalation. Hence, Lebanon must remain in constant contact with these Arab countries and try to bring aid to the country.
Question: What can they do for us? Is it true that there are financial deposits?
Hariri: I remember that they have done a lot for us, and at this point Lebanon has to apply reforms and actual work. The state has not undertaken any reform included in CEDRE, and so far, there has been no reform. Why? Because someone wants to block.
Question: There is an increasing talk today about Lebanon’s neutrality, so why was this neutrality not accepted during your government?
Hariri: Some criticize the issue of neutrality and say that this matter requires a national dialogue. What is disassociation? Isn’t it neutrality? Did we apply disassociation? Have the political parties in the country implemented disassociation, especially Hezbollah? It did not apply it, while we applied it and stopped talking about Syria.
Question: But this word has always provoked suspicion, historically?
Hariri: We are not in history, but rather live in the present. Do not forget the government of PM Najib Mikati proposed disassociation, and there was a consensus at the cabinet table, including from Hezbollah ministers. Let no one tell us that talking about disassociation is unnatural. Israel is an enemy and no one can outbid us on this issue, it is the enemy of the entire Arab world. This is clear, and the Arab League still adheres to its peace plan. This principle was endorsed by the government of PM Mikati, which we at the time said was the government of Hezbollah. What is disassociation? To disassociate ourselves from Syria, Iran, and all the problems that surround us.
Question: There was a talk about the boycott by the Saudi ambassador of Saad Hariri. How accurate is this?
Hariri: Let them think that way, I couldn’t care less. The relationship with Saudi Arabia is excellent, thank God, and with all the Gulf states as well, and perhaps this is what disturbs them.
Question: Do you think that these visits will bring aid to Lebanon?
Hariri: They speak openly and say to the Lebanese: If you want us to help you, you must help yourself. They also say that disassociation has not been applied at any point.
Question: Do they want disassociation to give us electricity?
Hariri: Should they give us electricity? Do we need to beg for electricity? Have we reached this point? A major party has been controlling this ministry for ten years. What has it done for this sector? Or do they want to put the blame on us for the past thirty years?
Question: Do you expect more internal escalation on the subject of neutrality?
Hariri: I do not understand why there should be problems in the matter of neutrality. Aren’t they the ones who invented the disassociation policy? Let them apply it. That is all we say. How do we distance ourselves and there are interventions in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and others? It has become clear that the Arabs have put a question mark on the identity of Lebanon.
Question: Today, Hezbollah is being blamed for the economic collapse while its interventions in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are not new. What is the reason for that?
Hariri: There is a regional escalation between the United States and Iran, and we are paying the price. So why pay this price? When the Maronite Patriarch says that we have to preserve Lebanon’s neutrality, what is the goal behind it? Today the country is very tired, so why do we have to pay the price of the great battle that takes place between these parties? When we first came out with the slogan “Lebanon first”, someone told me that I was abandoning the Palestinian cause. No, I 5am not giving up on the Palestinian cause, but our slogan is “Lebanon first” and the Lebanese first, and this cannot be just a slogan. Before Syria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran and every other cause, so that the citizen can have a decent life.
Question: But the visits of Major General Ibrahim, especially to the Saudi embassy, cannot take place without cover from the President of the Republic or Hezbollah. What do you think about this visit?
Hariri: I have not seen Major General Ibrahim. I have to meet him in order to know the truth of the matter. They are making accusations and I have not met with him and I do not know what happened with him in Kuwait. No one from Kuwait even spoke to me, nor did I speak to the Kuwaiti ambassador.
Question: There is concern about August 7, the date of the verdict of the Special Tribunal, especially in light of the escalation taking place and the position of Hezbollah in this regard, which said that the tribunal does not concern the party. What is your response?
Hariri: This is strange. In all ministerial statements, we say that we respect all international resolutions. Will we become like Israel, which deals selectively with international resolutions? Either we are part of this international community, or outside it.
Rafic Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005, and the people demanded truth and justice. On August 7 the verdict will be issued and I will react. Listen to me on August 7.
Question: They say today that the dollar will drop to less than 5 thousand LBP but the prices are rising
Hariri: We are waiting for the dollar exchange rate to decrease. Isn’t that what the government says? Are we going to vote against that? If the government presents a project that saves Lebanon, we will be with it and we will not be against it, but let them present something that benefits Lebanon and let them achieve the necessary reforms, not the parts sharing that is taking place.
For example, they want to change the law on electricity, which is Law 462, and while we are in a deep economic crisis, and the international community is calling for reforms in Lebanon. So why do they want to do the opposite of what the international community wants? Why should the regulator body in electricity be different from the one in telecommunications and civil aviation? This is abnormal and there is a political imbalance. Some think that they can do things the way they like, but reform is not like this. Why do we invent a new system every day because this minister wants that or that party covets that? If they want to help Lebanon get out of its crisis, they must do the right things.
Question: But the US Secretary of State called for a government that is far from Hezbollah?
Hariri: I repeat my first words: Lebanon first. If there is a major conflict in the region, why should the Lebanese citizen pay the price?
Question: What is required then?
Hariri: That we really disassociate ourselves. What prevents disassociation?
Question: There is a kind of US tightening of the noose on Hezbollah in the issue of UNIFIL. Does that not entail a response from it?
Hariri: Did I say that I adopt this policy? This policy does not involve Saad Hariri or Hezbollah, this policy is between the United States and Iran, and we are paying the price.
Question: How do you see the Iranian offer to supply Lebanon with oil?
Hariri: The government decides. I am not in government, but in the opposition. For my part, I believe that Lebanon should be a society open to all countries of the world, and the economy should remain liberal. This economy that was based on banks and opening up to the countries of the world must continue, and if it needs to be modified or reformed, then this does not mean that we change it.
Question: Minister Gebran Bassil said in a tweet that the way back will be long, so what is your response?
Hariri: He said this three years ago, wasn’t he the one who also said that he will bring electricity 24 hours per day?

Source: National News Agency