Rifi: Saad Hariri is Finished, Sunnis Awaiting a 'New Hariri'إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi has announced that his ties with al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri are “totally severed,” while claiming that the former premier has lost his influence in the Sunni community.
“There are no channels of communication or any exchange of words or greetings,” Rifi said in an interview with MTV.
The minister however noted that he is maintaining communication with al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc head MP Fouad Saniora, MP Bahia Hariri, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and “other members of al-Mustaqbal Movement.”
Commenting on Mashnouq's decision to ask the government to ban the Arab Democratic Party and the Islamic Unification Movement faction led by Hashem Minqara, Rifi noted that “Prime Minister Tammam Salam will not dare to put the disbanding of the two groups on the cabinet's agenda.”
“If he refrains from doing so, I will not hesitate to attack him,” Rifi added.
The resigned minister also noted that from now on he will not visit the Center House – the headquarters of ex-PM Saad Hariri.
“I belong to Qureitem not to the Center House,” Rifi added, referring to the headquarters of slain ex-PM Rafik Hariri, Saad's father.
Saad “Hariri is finished and the Sunnis are awaiting a new Hariri,” the resigned minister went on to say.
Boasting about his rising influence in the Sunni community, Rifi added: “I am strong in Tripoli and my influence is spreading to Akkar in which I will have candidates (in the parliamentary elections). I also have presence now western and central Bekaa and I'm rivaling Hariri in Beirut's third electoral district.”
Rifi also revealed that Saudi Arabia had asked him through its ambassador to fulfill two demands that he snubbed – “visiting the Center House and returning to the government.”
He however emphasized that his relation with the kingdom is characterized by “respect” and that Riyadh has not tried to “restrict” his political activities.
Separately, Rifi hailed the Lebanese Forces and its leader Samir Geagea, describing the LF chief as “our first ally.”
Asked why he has not visited Maarab lately, Rifi said he does not want to “embarrass” Geagea.
Rifi also ruled out any political developments in Lebanon before the U.S. presidential elections, noting that Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun and Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh have no chances to reach the Baabda Palace.