Syrians vote for new parliament amid war, economic turmoil

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab was fighting to save his job on Saturday after Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi repeated his attack on Hezbollah’s role in the government.

The row began when Al-Rahi said the US, the EU and the Gulf states were reluctant to help Lebanon out of its economic crisis because they did not want to assist an administration controlled by the Iran-backed group.

After meeting the prime minister on Saturday, the patriarch said: “Our country is a democratic country and everyone expresses their opinion, but we cannot live in a country where some people pull horses backward and some pull them forward.

“We said nothing new when we demanded Lebanon’s neutrality from regional conflicts. Lebanon was open to all countries, East and West, except Israel, which occupied our land. Our identity is positive and constructive neutrality.”

Diab described references to Hezbollah control of the government as being “like a broken record,” and said he would not resign.

Resignation would be “a crime against Lebanon and the Lebanese because an alternative government will not be easy to form and we will spend months, maybe even two years, as a caretaker government,” he said. However, he added: “The parliament is its own master and can put the government through a vote of confidence.”

The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari, writing on social media on Saturday, recalled the position of Bechara Al-Khoury, Lebanon’s first post-independence president, in his memoirs: 

“We have refuted any accusation of isolation, and we have turned toward the Arabs, with whom we share the bonds of a common language, as well as the customs and morals of the East, and the Lebanese became one person, Lebanese nationalist, Arab independent.” 

Al-Rahi’s spokesman Abdo Abu Kasam said: “The Patriarch’s initiative helps to neutralize Lebanon from political tensions in the region and the world. This will help to save Lebanon from the economic and financial downfall it is experiencing today.”

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