Druze leader Jumblatt says Iran will win in Lebanon if Arabs leave

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BEIRUT, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said Thursday that Iran has gained influence in Lebanon because Arab states have left the country, fueling criticism of Iran-backed Hezbollah and suggesting Tehran wants the Lebanese one wipe out the state.

In an interview with MTV broadcaster, Jumblatt also said that no one could replace Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri, who this week announced his retirement from politics – a decision Hariri attributed in part to Iranian influence in Lebanon. [ read more ]

Jumblatt reinforced his criticism of Hezbollah, saying Lebanon is not a missile launch platform, referring to the group’s powerful arsenal, which was formed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982.

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“There is an Arab surrender of Lebanon… with the excuse of a personal and political attack by Hezbollah on the Arabs, we are the victims of this struggle,” said Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Druze minority.

The Druze, an offshoot of Shia Islam, have long excelled in Lebanon’s sectarian politics.

Jumblatt compared today’s Lebanon under Iranian influence to the 1990s when the country was dominated by neighboring Syria, then led by the late President Hafez al-Assad.

“The difference today between Iran and Syrian rule… (is that) President Hafez al-Assad didn’t annul the Lebanese entity… he didn’t denounce the entity… he didn’t denounce the state,” Jumblatt said.

Three-time Prime Minister Hariri said Monday he would step down from public life and boycott May’s parliamentary elections, citing Iranian influence as one of the reasons he sees little hope for positive change.

Jumblatt also said it was impossible for Lebanon to implement a 2004 UN Security Council resolution that would require Hezbollah to disarm – one of several conditions imposed by the Gulf Arab States to ties with Beirut to thaw.

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Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Laila Bassam; writing by Tom Perry; Adaptation by Leslie Adler and Diane Craft

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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