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Hezbollah hosts Saudi opposition conference as Lebanon-Gulf tensions ease

January 13, 2022 at 3:34 pm

A portrait of late prominent Shia Muslim cleric Nimr Al-Nimr in the Lebanese capital, Beirut on 7 January 2016 [JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images]

Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement hosted a conference yesterday for Saudi oppositionists in its stronghold, south of Beirut.

Joining Saudi dissident figures at the event, which was intended to commemorate the anniversary of the execution of prominent and outspoken Saudi Shia cleric Nimr Al-Nimr, who was executed in a controversial mass execution of 46 other people in January 2016, were members of the Iranian-supported Yemeni Houthi movement.

The head of Hezbollah’s Executive Assembly, Hashem Safieddine, who was also present, slammed the kingdom over its “blatant interference” in Lebanon’s affairs. The gathering prompted Saudi’s envoy to Beirut Waleed Bukhari tweeted that “the painful truth is that the terrorist Hezbollah is active above the state”.

The event comes as some members of the Lebanese government including the prime minister and interior minister have sought to mend ties with Riyadh and its Gulf allies after a diplomatic row erupted in October over the then-Information Minister George Kordahi’s criticism over the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Yemen, leading to the kingdom and other Gulf states recalling its ambassador  to Beirut and expelling Lebanon’s ambassadors in addition to banning Lebanese imports. Kordahi announced his resignation last month, despite insisting he would not step down over the row.

This was followed by Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi ordering the deportation of members of Bahraini oppositionists, despite the Gulf kingdom’s documented human rights abuses against dissidents and rights activists and more recently the removal of “offensive” posters of Saudi King Salman from neighbourhoods in southern Beirut.

Earlier this month, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati also condemned comments made by Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah over his labelling Saudi King Salman as a “terrorist” and distanced the government from the remarks. President Michel Aoun, an important political ally of Hezbollah has also tried to dissociate himself from the comments.

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