Lebanon is 'declaring war' on Saudi Arabia, Saudi minister says

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Saudi Arabia, a political ally of Hariri, is locked in a bitter tussle for power across the Middle East with Iran and its allies, including Hezbollah. "By pulling Hariri out of his office, they may hope to ensure that Hezbollah gets stuck with the blame and responsibility for Lebanon's challenges", he added.

The resignation marks the end of a shaky Shia-Sunni political alliance forming the government, which has somewhat managed to keep away the violence battering neighbouring Syria.

Shapiro further highlighted "The bigger question is whether his resignation is a sign that the Saudis withdrew their support for him once again".

The country's political system, designed in 1989 as per the Taif Agreement, stipulates that the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the premier a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite.

Lebanon has one of the world's highest ratios of debt-to-GDP and last month passed its first budget since 2005, one of the few achievements of the coalition government.

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A member of Hezbollah's central committee, Sheikh Nabil Kawouk, accused Riyadh of being behind Hariri's resignation, saying in a speech reported by Lebanon's al-Jadeed television: "God protect Lebanon from the evil of Saudi Arabia's reckless adventures".

"We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri". Less than two years later, 11 Hezbollah members of his Cabinet resigned, causing a coalition government to collapse. News of high-level arrests in Saudi Arabia fuelled social media speculation in Lebanon that Hariri, a Saudi national, was a target. All of Hariri's statements attested to the continuation of his future plans as prime minister.

"The Saudis felt that Hariri was not delivering and that Hezbollah and Iran were using [the governing arrangement] for their interest", said Shavit. Hariri is Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician.

In the extended UNIFIL mandate, the Security Council renewed the mission with new instructions for more patrols with Lebanese forces and detailed reports when peacekeepers run into roadblocks in Hezbollah's strongholds in southern Lebanon.

Hariri has visited Saudi Arabia twice in the past week, meeting Crown Prince Mohammed and other senior officials. "But if the Saudis fail and Hezbollah strengthens its position and has more room to maneuver, we will lose", said Shavit. Iran was sowing strife, destruction and ruin wherever it went and accused it of a "deep hatred for the Arab nation", he said. "As Hezbollah matured and played a more integral role in governance, it wanted to be seen as creating the means for a stronger, more effective Lebanon". The company was hit by a decline in oil prices led to sharp state spending cuts in the kingdom.

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