Lebanon’s Hariri says Damascus wants him killed

BEIRUT — Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri charged that the Syrian regime which he blames for his father’s assassination also wants him killed, in an interview published Thursday in French magazine Paris Match.

Hariri assessed that the regime’s military successes against rebels in the Syrian conflict were victories for presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani rather than their allied Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad.

“I have a lot of enemies, extremists and the Syrian regime. The latter has issued a death sentence against me. They accuse me of interference in their country,” said Hariri, who was interviewed at his Beirut residence.

Hariri, who has made the same accusation in the past, says the regime in Syria was behind the 2005 assassination of his father, former premier Rafik Hariri, in a car bombing on the Beirut seafront, a charge denied by Damascus.

At Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s request, Hariri has suspended his shock resignation announced from Riyadh on November 4 and returned to Beirut after a three-week absence.

He cited Iran’s “grip” on his country through Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah and threats to his life as causes of his resignation, which he has suspended pending political negotiations in Beirut.

On the military victories of Assad’s regime, Hariri told Paris Match: “He has not won. It’s presidents Putin and Rouhani who have won” with the military forces they had committed to the conflict in Syria.

Hariri flew Wednesday night to Paris for a family visit, a source close to the prime minister said.The premier, who has called for Hezbollah to “disassociate” itself from conflicts such as Syria where it has fought alongside Assad’s forces, said: “It is in Lebanon’s interest that these [Hezbollah’s] arms not be used elsewhere.”

After a lengthy stay in the Saudi capital, Hariri already stopped over in Paris at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron on his way back to Beirut last week.

Following charges that he had been detained in Riyadh, some analysts described his departure for France at the time as an “exfiltration” by Paris.

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