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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
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 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.
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 US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid