BEIRUT – The head of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Tuesday described as “dictates” a recent Kuwaiti list of proposals aimed at repairing Lebanon’s ties with Gulf Arab nations, strained largely over what the say is Hezbollah’s growing influence.
“Lebanon is a sovereign country and should not be sent dictates,” Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview on Arabic-language Iranian TV channel Al Alam when asked to comment on the proposals.
A diplomatic source previously told Reuters that the proposals included a request to step up security in Lebanon, prevent drug smuggling to the Gulf and hold May parliamentary elections on time.
Nasrallah added that he nonetheless supported Lebanese-Gulf dialogue.
Lebanon’s ties to the Arab Gulf and particularly Saudi Arabia, formerly a major donor to Beirut, hit rock bottom last year over what the Saudi foreign minister said was Hezbollah’s growing influence in the country. Relations had deteriorated for years, causing knock-on effects within Lebanon.
Top Sunni Muslim political leader and ex-prime minister Saad Hariri, a former close ally of Saudi Arabia who has since lost its backing, announced his withdrawal from politics last month and said he would not field candidates, upending elections.
Hariri cited Iran’s growing role in Lebanon as one of the reasons for his exit.
Nasrallah described Hariri’s decision as “unfortunate”, adding: “We were hoping it wouldn’t happen, but it happened.”
Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah has long been a political opponent of Hariri but has also participated in several governments he headed under Lebanon’s complex sectarian power-sharing system.