Lebanese premier resigns, plunging nation into uncertainty

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri Announces Sudden Resignation - Reports

Lebanon's president will not accept the resignation of prime minister Saad al-Hariri until he returns to Lebanon, palace sources said on Sunday, delaying for now politically hard consultations on his successor.

Hours after announcing in Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh on Saturday he would step down, the Saudi television station Al-Arabiya reported an assassination attempt on Hariri was thwarted just days before he resigned.

Hariri's resignation toppled a coalition government that included Hezbollah, thrusting Lebanon back into the frontline of the Saudi-Iranian regional rivalry and risking an open-ended political crisis and sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

"It is clear that the resignation was a Saudi decision that was imposed on Prime Minister Hariri".

Nasrallah urged Lebanese not to hold protests in response to the resignation, saying "this will not lead to any result".

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President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, will wait to accept or reject Hariri's resignation until he returns to Lebanon to explain his reasons, sources at the presidential palace said. "The resignation of al-Hariri and his comments on Iran are a wake-up call to the worldwide community to act against Iran, which is trying to turn Syria into a second Lebanon".

Hariri said the atmosphere in Lebanon is quite similar to the period leading up to the assassination of his father, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005.

Having Lebanon plunged in chaos and instability can only exacerbate an already messy regional scene. The country's political system, designed in 1989 as per the Taif Agreement, stipulates that the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the premier a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite. Arab news sources said that al-Hariri had very recently survived an assassination attempt, which was the direct impetus for his decision. "This confrontation (between Saudi Arabia and Iran) is more violent than Lebanon can stand up to", he said, warning of economic and security ramifications.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was concerned by Hariri's resignation and hoped all sides in the country would back its state institutions, his spokesman on Lebanon Stephane Dujarric said in an emailed statement.

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