Lebanon's Hariri to Stay in Office After Allies' Conflict Pledge

(Bloomberg) -- Lebanon’s prime minister said he would remain in office after governing partners pledged to stay out of neighboring conflicts, a month after his resignation threatened to drag the country deeper into the Middle East’s major sectarian confrontation.

After chairing his first cabinet session since returning to Beirut in late November, Saad Hariri said in a statement that the government’s “political components agreed to disassociate itself from any conflicts and wars and from internal affairs of Arab countries.”

Hariri said he was quitting on Nov. 4 while on a trip to Saudi Arabia. He blamed chief Saudi foe Iran and its proxy Hezbollah of destabilizing his country, and the timing and location of the statement raised questions whether the 47-year-old had been coerced into resigning. Hariri and Saudi officials denied the accusations.

In a subsequent television interview, Hariri said rescinding his resignation hinged on whether Hezbollah agreed to remain neutral in regional conflicts. The militant group plays a key role in Lebanon’s government but its armed wing is fighting in Syria to support fellow Iran ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Hariri’s “statement has no guarantees on how this will translate on the ground” given that Hezbollah is still in Syria, said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. “There isn’t a timeline or a mechanism to implement this commitment.” 

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