The head of the Executive Assembly of Hezbollah, Hashem Safieddine, demanded on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia should stop what he described as its "hegemony" over the Lebanese people and "blatant interference" in their affairs.
"What is required of it [Saudi Arabia] is not to interfere in the Lebanese people's classifications and incite them against each other," Safieddine told a party gathering near Beirut. "We say to the United States, Saudi Arabia and their arms in Lebanon, you do not know the strength of this resistance, as it is capable of achieving a sovereign, free and independent homeland without any dependence on the outside."
The Hezbollah official expressed the party's support for the opposition in the Arabian Peninsula, wishing them a "dignified life because they deserve it".
The gathering addressed by Safieddine was organised by Hezbollah to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the execution of Saudi dissident Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr. The Shia cleric led protests in eastern Saudi Arabia in the early 2000s, but was executed by Riyadh along with 46 other people in January 2016 for "igniting sectarian strife" or "belonging to terrorist organisations".
Safieddine's comments add to the recent tension between Riyadh and the Lebanese party. In late December, Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz urged the Lebanese leaders to "stop the hegemony of the terrorist Hezbollah." The Kingdom's Ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari, accused Hezbollah last Thursday of being a threat to Arab national security.
Responding to King Salman's remarks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said, "Saudi Arabia's problem in Lebanon lies with those who defeated its project in the region and prevented turning Lebanon into a Saudi emirate."
The Lebanese government has distanced itself from Hezbollah, saying that the group's statements do not represent its position.