Lebanon army says no assassination plot uncovered after PM Hariri resigns


Lebanon army says no assassination plot uncovered after PM Hariri resigns

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The Lebanese army has said it has not discovered any assassination plots in the country, a day after Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri stepped down saying he feared for his life.

It said in a statement that it had not uncovered "the presence of any plan for assassinations".

However, a Saudi minister says Mr Hariri's bodyguards had confirmed there was a plot to kill him.

The Lebanese PM resigned in a televised broadcast from Saudi Arabia.

He blamed Iran for meddling in several countries, including Lebanon, and said he felt the climate was similar to that which "prevailed" before his father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a bomb in 2005.

The attack was widely blamed on the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon and denies it was involved.

Iran has denounced Mr Hariri's assertions, with an adviser to the Supreme Leader accusing the US and Saudi Arabia of being behind the move.

The ex-PM is close to Saudi Arabia, Iran's chief rival for regional influence.

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In addition to the army, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon's General Security intelligence agency, has also said he has no information about any plots to kill politicians in the country, Reuters news agency reports.

The Lebanese Internal Security Forces, meanwhile, have denied reports that they foiled a recent assassination attempt in Beirut, Lebanon's capital.

However Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan has said Mr Hariri's bodyguards had confirmed that there was an assassination plot against him.

He denied in an interview with a Lebanese TV station that Saudi Arabia pushed Mr Hariri to resign.

Iran rejects Lebanon PM's claims

Correspondents say Mr Hariri's sudden departure has plunged Lebanon into a new political crisis and raised fears that it may be at the forefront of the regional rivalry between Shia power Iran and Sunni stronghold Saudi Arabia.

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Image caption Mr Hariri's father, Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005

Mr Hariri, whose family is close to Saudi Arabia, became prime minister in December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

Mr Hariri has made several recent visits to Saudi Arabia. His announcement on Saturday came a day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

After taking office last year, Mr Hariri promised a "new era for Lebanon" after two years of political deadlock.

The coalition government he led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

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