Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri paid a visit on Tuesday to Speaker Nabih Berri at his Ain el-Tineh residence to protest against Tele Liban's broadcast of an interview with Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during which he renewed his harsh criticism of the kingdom, reported al-Liwaa newspaper on Wednesday.
He relayed a “strongly-worded” message of protest from the kingdom against Nasrallah's accusations, reported the daily.
He considered that the Hizbullah chief's remarks were “completely antagonistic of the kingdom,” it added.
Asiri had left Ain el-Tineh without making a statement, while Berri's media office stated that the two officials discussed Lebanese and regional affairs.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Ramzi Jreij telephoned Asiri to “express his apologies over Lebanon's state television station's, Tele Liban, airing of the interview on Monday,” reported the daily al-Mustaqbal on Wednesday.
The minister told the daily that he offered an “official apology on behalf of Tele Liban,” vowing that he would take “internal measures against the station.”
“The mistake will not be repeated,” he stressed.
“He apologized for the harm made against Saudi Arabia by Nasrallah and the positions that do not reflect the official Lebanese media that is represented by Tele Liban,” added al-Liwaa.
Asiri had received later on Tuesday a number of telephone calls from various Lebanese politicians and media officials to condemn the broadcast of the interview, it continued.
A ministerial source did not rule out the possibility that the issue will be brought up at a cabinet session scheduled for later on Wednesday.
A semi-official source told al-Liwaa that Tele Liban explained that it had aired the interview from al-Manar television, not Syria's al-Ikhbariya news channel, out of respect of Lebanon's policy of disassociation.
It later said that Jreij will bring up the matter with Prime Minister Tammam Salam ahead of the cabinet meeting, adding that he vowed to apply the law against media outlets that violate rules and regulations of the profession and harm higher national interests.
Hizbullah's media officer Mohammed Afif later questioned to al-Akhbar newspaper why the matter was being “blown out of proportion.”
“Tele Liban belongs to all the Lebanese people and it should be balanced in its reporting,” he explained.
He revealed that he had held talks with the station's general director Talal al-Maqdisi, presenting him with “list of Tele Liban's unbalanced reporting of developments and requesting that it be more fair in its coverage.”
This visit however was made long before Nasrallah had scheduled his interview with the Syrian station, he said.
Moreover, he added that the Saudi ambassador's protests “are evidence that the kingdom would be bothered by any criticism made from anywhere in the world because it exposes the criminality of its aggression.”
On Monday, Nasrallah declared that Saudi Arabia will suffer a “major defeat” in the Yemeni conflict, as he stressed that “the war on Syria” has failed.
“Saudi Arabia will suffer a major defeat that will have an impact on its domestic situation and the entire region,” he told al-Ikhbariya in an interview that was broadcast by Tele Liban.
Saudi Arabia began its airstrikes in Yemen on March 25, announcing that it had put together a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, for the military operation to defend Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi's government against the Shiite Huthi rebels.
The military move against the rebels triggered fury from Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, Hizbullah's main regional ally, with officials in Tehran warning that the military action threatened to spill over into other countries.
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