Saudi Arabia Urges Lebanese to Resolve Disputes, Doubts Near Rapprochement with Iran

Diplomats urged on Monday Lebanese foes no to delay the cabinet formation pending a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, which might not happen anytime soon, depending on the developments in war-torn Syria.

A prominent diplomat said in comments published in As Safir newspaper that Saudi Arabia advises Lebanese arch-foes to “resolve their disputes on their own and not to wait for Tehran and Riyadh to bridge the gap between them,” ahead of the upcoming presidential elections.

Several Lebanese officials recently expressed hope that any Iranian-Saudi rapprochement would have a positive impact on Lebanon and the region and would create further detente.

President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of the president's mandate.

The diplomat urged the rival parties to end media campaigns against each other, saying that Riyadh isn't behind the political deadlock in Lebanon, in particular, the cabinet crisis.

“Saudi Arabia urges the Lebanese to rectify the ties despite that it's unable to play a role in the matter due to the complicated disputes and the monarchy's stance from Hizbullah and Iran,” the diplomat quoted Saudi sources as saying.

In November, Saudi Arabia's embassy in Beirut has called on citizens to leave Lebanon because of the dangerous situation.

The warning came two days after a twin suicide bombings killed 25 people near the Beirut embassy of Saudi's regional rival Iran, which is located in the stronghold of Tehran ally Hizbullah.

Media reports said Lebanon had "entered into the era of suicide bombings," adding that the attackers had "resorted to the takfiri (extremist Sunni) heritage sponsored by the Saudi kingdom with millions of dollars".

Saudi Arabia backs the Syrian rebels, while Iran and its ally Hizbullah support the Syrian regime.

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri is currently outside Lebanon and isn't expected to return soon to Beirut.

For its part, Iranian sources said that Tehran “doesn't order Hizbullah what to do or say.”

“Iran hasn't accused Saudi Arabia and Hizbullah has the right to say whatever it wants according to its information,” the sources said.

“Iran's allies has stances that at times differ with its own point of view and this is what distinguishes us from others, who oblige their allies to take their stance, even if it was against Lebanon's interest,” the sources added.

The Gulf Cooperation Council said in December that it "welcome the new orientation by the Iranian leadership towards the GCC and hope it will be followed by concrete measures that would positively impact regional peace.”

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif moved last week to assure Gulf states the nuclear deal was not at their expense and called for a new page in relations as he toured the region.

The tour followed comments by Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani who, when he took over from hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August, said he hoped to bolster ties with neighboring countries, especially those in the Gulf.

Like Western powers, Gulf monarchies fear Iran may develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes only.

Ties between some Gulf states and Iran have also been strained over Tehran's support for Assad and a Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain.

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