BEIRUT: In a speech on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Rafic Hariri, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced that the settlement he had established with President Michel Aoun had come to an end. “The Hariri era has not ended, and I am staying in the country and in politics, and the Sunnis are staying,” he stated.
“Before the settlement, I tried to pave the way for my friend, Suleiman Franjieh, to become president, but his allies prevented him. The abolition mentality wants to abolish the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and, now, Hariri,” he said.
Hariri lashed out at the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, without naming him. “President Aoun knows how much I respect him, but I arrived at a point where I have begun to deal with two presidents — I have to deal with a shadow president to protect the original one,” he said.
He was also indirectly critical of Hezbollah. “How can we strengthen tourism without the Arabs and the citizens of the Arabian Gulf region, and how do we protect the interests of the Lebanese people, who are benefitting from employment opportunities in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries when there are those who stir up trouble with these countries?” he said.
“Iran’s money solves Hezbollah’s crisis; not the crisis of a country. Parties in the state do not operate separately and individually without actual financial policies.”
Hariri strongly criticized the ongoing efforts to hold his father responsible for Lebanon’s economic collapse.
“What is most dangerous are suggestions that the countdown to the Taif Agreement has begun. People know how Lebanon was before Rafic Hariri and what he did for it. They did not offer the country anything of value. They did not even build a sewer. Instead, they fabricated files, dug graves, and made accusations. There is a political system that started discussing a non-Hariri era and holding Hariri responsible for ‘the deal of the century’ and the resettlement nightmare. We say that resettlement is not mentioned in the constitution,” he said.
“Seven years of impediment after (Rafic) Hariri’s assassination have been wasted on talks about the rights of minorities, who have been partners for 30 years and participated in all disturbances. The cost of electric power has amounted for 50 percent of public debt,” he added, highlighting that since the war ended, no Future Movement member of parliament had ever assumed the role of minister of energy.
“In the last two months, we have heard that the Future Movement has come to its end. We have also heard that Saudi Arabia, the US, China, and the world do not want Saad Hariri, but I assure you that the Future Movement, the movement of Arabism and moderation, is staying, and this house shall never close,” he added.
Thousands of supporters and popular delegations carrying the Future Movement’s blue flag as well as Lebanon’s flag flocked to Hariri’s house and the streets surrounding it. They also carried banners that read, “Your martyrdom is revolution.”
The speech was attended by a delegation from the Democratic Gathering, led by Taymour Jumblatt, a parliamentary and ministerial delegation from the Lebanese Forces, and delegations from the Armenian Tashnag Party and the Phalange Party. It was also attended by the Saudi Arabian and UAE ambassadors to Lebanon.
Walid, a young man from Iklim Al-Kharoub region, told Arab News: “People are with Saad Hariri, may God give him strength.”
Nabiha from Beirut said: “We are with Saad Hariri. His allies have deceived him despite everything he did. He shall return to power.”
Farouk, also from Beirut, said: “Rafic Hariri leveraged everyone, but they removed him from power and then assassinated him. They are now trying to do the same to his son, Saad Hariri, but he is staying and will return strong. He will not lose his popularity.”
Political, religious and diplomatic figures also visited the grave of Rafic Hariri on the anniversary of his death, including Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin.
There was friction between Hariri’s supporters and protesters in Martyrs’ Square, opposite the site of Rafic Hariri’s grave.
During the commemoration of Rafic Hariri, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri is a mass killing. Many individuals linked to Hezbollah have been charged with playing roles in this terrorist attack, and they must be brought to justice in the end.”
Pompeo added that Hezbollah had proven through its terrorist and illegal activities that it cared more about its interests and the interests of its sponsor, Iran, than about the best interests of the Lebanese people.
“The US continues to proudly stand with the Lebanese people in their peaceful calls for reform, transparency, and accountability,” he added.