News / Middle East

Hariri Back in Lebanon for First Time in 3 Years

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri gestures upon his arrival at the government's headquarters in Beirut, August 8, 2014.
Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri gestures upon his arrival at the government's headquarters in Beirut, August 8, 2014.
Reuters

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri returned home on Friday for the first time in three years, on a visit seen as reasserting his leadership over the Sunni community following a deadly incursion by Islamist militants in northeast Lebanon.

Hariri, Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician, has been in self-imposed exile since 2011, sharing his time between France and Saudi Arabia. He left Lebanon after his government was toppled by a coalition including the Iranian-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah.

With no prior announcement, Hariri arrived at the Lebanese government's headquarters in Beirut, where he met Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

The Saudi-backed politician arrived in a Mercedes with blacked-out windows at the central courtyard of the Grand Serail and grinned widely as he walked into the building.

Hariri earlier this week announced that Saudi Arabia would donate $1 billion in military aid to Lebanese security forces to help them in the fight against extremists.

“My return comes after the Saudi donation which requires seeing how it can be implemented and translated into support for the army,” Hariri said on his Twitter account.

The Twitter account also said Hariri's first stop would be at the grave of his father, Rafik al-Hariri, another former Lebanese prime minister whose assassination in 2005 forced Saad to enter political life.

He blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the bomb attack in Beirut that killed his father. A special tribunal in the Netherlands has been trying four members of Hezbollah in absentia for the killing.

The group, an ally of Assad, denies any involvement.

Sunni violence

Hariri's visit follows a deadly incursion by Islamist militants who crossed from Syria and seized the Sunni town of Arsal in the northeast last Saturday. The gunmen withdrew from the town on Wednesday after five days of battles with the army.

The incursion by militants, including fighters affiliated to Islamic State which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, marked the most serious spillover to date of the three-year-old Syrian conflict.

Assad cracked down on Syria's pro-democracy movement in 2011 in a move that has led to a full-scale civil war pitting Sunni rebels against Assad's Alawite sect and Shi'ite fighters which has also had ramifications for tiny neighboring Lebanon.

Rocket fire, suicide attacks and gun battles connected to Syria's war have plagued Lebanon and the conflict has worsened the perennial political deadlock in the Mediterranean country, with officials divided largely along sectarian lines.

The deadlock has left Lebanon without a president since May, when incumbent Michel Suleiman's term expired.

The coastal city of Tripoli has seen regular skirmishes between Sunni and Alawite militiamen. Firebrand Sunni clerics such as Salafist leader Ahmad al-Assir have rallied Sunnis to fight the Beirut government, which includes Hezbollah members.

“There has been, in the last three years, a vacuum that has formed in the Sunni community. This was becoming increasingly dangerous because this community was becoming more and more radicalized,” said Michael Young, a political commentator.

“[Hariri's] return is probably an effort with the Saudis to reassert a certain amount of control over the Sunni community.”  

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid