Former PM Hariri says will return to Lebanon for November elections

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, January 20, 2014

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Monday he would return to Lebanon ahead of parliamentary elections later this year and was ready to work with his rivals for the good of the country.

Hariri, who has been living in exile between France and Saudi Arabia since 2011 has been attending the Special Tribunal trial in the Netherlands regarding his father's killing.

Lebanon, still struggling to recover from its 1975-1990 civil war, has been without a fully functioning government since Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned last March.

A caretaker cabinet with minimal powers is running the country while parties try to reach a deal to form a government ahead of parliamentary elections due in November.

"I will return to Lebanon for the elections and so that one day I can be prime minister," he told Europe 1 radio.

Until now Hariri has been reluctant to give any date for his return. But a conciliatory tone towards Hezbollah would be a sharp turnabout for Hariri and his Future party, a group that supports the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria's civil war.

"Lebanon's interest is more important than mine, he said when asked if he was ready to share power with his rivals.

He added that it was certain that Assad was behind the death of his father, former premier Rafik al-Hariri, whose 2005 car bomb assassination was blamed on Hezbollah by members of the March 14 bloc.

"Everyone knows who gave the order. It was Bashar al Assad," Hariri claimed. "One day we will go and get them (those responsible). They will pay," referring to those facing trial.

He also blamed Assad for the assassination of one of his closest advisers, Mohammed Shatah, in December.

Syria's war, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives, has inflamed division in Lebanon, especially since Hezbollah joined Assad in his three-year-old fight against Syrian rebels.

Syria peace talks are due to begin on Wednesday in Switzerland, setting up the first meeting between Assad's government and its foes.

Hariri said the priority was for Assad to go.

"Assad must leave power. We cannot have a president like Assad at the head of Syria," he said. "It's the job of Russia and Iran to tell Assad to go because Syrians don't want him."

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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