Iran says resignation of Lebanese PM will create tension in region

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group, on Sunday accused Saudi Arabia of dictating Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's resignation, which threatens to throw the Middle East nation into chaos.

Lebanon's president, Michel Aoun, said he spoke with Hariri by phone after the speech Saturday and, as the AP reports, he planned to work out the terms of the resignation following Hariri's return from Saudi Arabia.

The resignation of the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, toppled a coalition government that included Hezbollah.

Al-Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting earlier this week.

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Hezbollah's leader urged Lebanese citizens to refrain from protesting in a bid to stave off escalating tensions.

Lebanon is politically divided, with one camp supporting Hariri, a Sunni Muslim closely allied with regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and the other favoring Hezbollah, which has controversially deployed many of its fighters into neighboring Syria to support President Bashar Assad.

When he took office, Hariri promised "a new era for Lebanon", which had been in a political deadlock for two years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hariri's resignation and comments "are a wake-up call to the worldwide community to take action against the Iranian aggression that is trying to turn Syria into Lebanon 2".

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"I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life", said Hariri from the Saudi capital Riyadh, also mentioning that "we are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik Al Hariri", his father who was assassinated in 2005 in an attack blamed on Shiite Hizbollah, whose main backer is Iran.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh sought to calm fears the political turmoil would hit Lebanon's already fragile economy, issuing a statement to reaffirm the stability of its currency, which is pegged against the USA dollar. Arab news sources said that al-Hariri had very recently survived an assassination attempt, which was the direct impetus for his decision. Their political bloc controls the largest shares of seats in Lebanon's parliament.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was concerned by Hariri's resignation and hoped all sides in the country would back its state institutions, his spokesman on Lebanon Stephane Dujarric said in an emailed statement.

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