Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed his surprise that Prime Minister Hassan Diab describes the current crisis as a conspiracy, does not mention the issue of reforms, electricity, communications or even fuel, and attacks the diplomatic community while he seeks to borrow from its states. Hariri added that the key word to salvation is reform, reform and reform. He denied that anyone approached him with the issue of forming a new government, stressing that his conditions are known and have not changed, and they are not the conditions of Saad Hariri but rather what the country needs to get out of the current crisis.
In a chat with reporters this afternoon at the Center House, he warned against the mandate or the government sacking the Governor of the Central Bank Riad Salame, adding that the Future Movement will have a very harsh position in this case.
Question: There is talk today about a government change. Could you return to the premiership?
Hariri: There is a team responsible for this government, and if this team decides to abandon it, then it is its business. I said that I have conditions to return, and they know them. These conditions have not and will not change. They are not the conditions of Saad Hariri, but what the country needs to be saved. There has to be a very different way of working. If we do not go out of all these things, nothing will change.
Question: Who do you think is besieging this government and Lebanon, after PM Hassan Diab’s talk about besieging Lebanon?
Hariri: How can the outside besiege us through the dollar? There is an economic crisis and what is needed is reform. I heard what PM Diab said today, so did he talk about electricity? Reforms? He only attacks the diplomatic corps while we seek to borrow from its states. Once we gather this diplomatic corps and talk to them about Lebanon’s situation and its suffering, and another time, we turn around and attack them. I did not see any judge react when the Syrian Ambassador attacked Speaker Nabih Berri a few months ago.
Question: Where do you think the main problem is today?
Hariri: Either we look at this crisis in a negative way, or we try to find a certain positive way out of this crisis. There is no doubt that this crisis created an economic meltdown in Lebanon, but somewhere, the International Monetary Fund says it is ready to help. Reforms are needed and changing the way of work by quotas. There is a so-called Low hanging fruit, and so far we haven’t made any of it. I am really shocked when I hear a prime minister not mention electricity, communications, transportation, or the fuel oil problem that we suffer from, and only see a conspiracy. We have to do our homework. If the Lebanese want the others to help him, he must help himself first. The government should help itself.
Question: But the current government bears responsibility for the previous governments. Do you consider yourself today responsible?
Hariri: I kept silent for the first hundred days of the life of this government and did not deny that I bear responsibility, and the proof that I bear responsibility is that I resigned. Didn’t the people ask me to resign and I did? I did what people wanted, and certainly I bear responsibility, but others bear a much greater responsibility. What did they accomplish with these ministries? We agonize to make the easiest reforms and do not make them. So why not do these reforms? Is it because someone wants this person and this party wants this or that? Are we going to keep going this way? Is this the cry of the people on October 17? What did the people say then? They said that there are neither Muslims nor Christians, “leave” and the country should not managed this way.
Question: Minister Bassil’s sources are trying to market former vice-Governor of the Central Bank, Mohamed Baasiri, as a substitute for PM Hassan Diab. Would you agree with this proposal?
Hariri: I do not cover anyone close to me. My conditions are clear, whether it is I or someone else.
Question: Is this condition that Gibran Bassil is not represented in this government?
Hariri: They know my conditions.
Question: It is said that the United States are asking Lebanon for a government in which Hezbollah is not represented. Are you ready to head such a government?
Hariri: Where was that said? There is no evidence about this. But certainly there is a political problem in the country in this regard, and we cannot understand how a government demands the Gulf to provide money to Lebanon while in this government there are those who clap when a Houthi missile hits Riyadh or any region in Saudi Arabia. The disassociation policy was put in the statement of the previous government and was not respected.
Question: What is the Saudi embassy in Lebanon seeking through the receptions that the Saudi ambassador is hosting?
Hariri: You should ask the ambassador.
Question: Where do you think we are heading on the issue of heading east?
Hariri: First, I do not think that any government in the past had a problem with the East, or even with the West, perhaps only some of them, but most governments had good relations with the East and with the West. Rafic Hariri visited China and Japan, and I went to China, Russia, Europe and America. But the problem with this issue is that they believe this is the solution, as if China will come and put its money in Lebanon. Any country that would invests in Lebanon will demand reforms. If it were to participate in a tender for electricity, for example, it would request that this tender be clear, transparent and organized on international basis. Let no one say that we refuse to engage with the East. Not at all. The Music Institute, which is located in Dbayeh, who made donations for its establishment? Isn’t it China during my government? We also worked with Huawei, which developed the 5G towers. No one has a problem with the East. They demand the government to go east as if someone is preventing them from doing so. But as far as Lebanon’s national interest is concerned, we must always have a balance. When you consider the interest of the Lebanese, you must take into consideration that he is able to go east as much as he is able to go west.
Question: Has the Lebanon which was built according to the vision of martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri come to an end?
Hariri: No, I think we have an opportunity today. Before the assassination of Rafic Hariri, the country was being built despite all the obstacles put in the way of Rafic Hariri, but after the martyrdom in 2005, an unacceptable and unnatural way of work and quotas started.
Question: But you were accepting these things?
Hariri: I was prime minister three times, but during these 15 years, there were 7 years lost in a vacuum, only negotiations for this or that seat, and this vacuum was devastating for us.
The opportunity is that we have to think that the way of working that prevailed over the past 15 years is no longer permissible. Therefore, we must press the reset button, and this collapse that afflicts us in Lebanon is part of this button. When we make an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, all the reforms that we have to implement must be complete, and all quotas have to stop then. And if we want to fight corruption, the most important way to do this is through an e-government, when the citizen does not have to go from one formality to another. The same applies to the social security number. Where has this number become, given that we have begun work to accomplish it in the previous government? Hence, we must return to the fundamentals, and this country must rise again based on them and not on the distortion that existed.
Question: But the people want immediate solutions in light of the deterioration taking place, so why don’t you interfere and conduct an external tour in an effort to bring support to Lebanon?
Hariri: Where is the reform that we have done? If we could not appoint a board of directors for Electricite du Liban. And now, in the telecommunications sector, we have two companies that were managing the sector, we took it from them and brought it back to the public sector, as if the public sector is very efficient.
Question: But this is for one month only, until the conditions book is completed?
Hariri: Do you believe that? The book of conditions is ready.
Question: Didn’t you say that political disturbance stalled the electricity plan that was approved in 2010? Is this still your opinion?
Hariri: The problem is in the way they deal with people. In the government, there is a movement that wants to quarrel with everyone at the cabinet table, whether Amal, Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt or the Lebanese forces, so how will the government work?
We had a golden opportunity when we went to CEDRE, and we were supposed to finish the parliamentary elections, form a government within three days and start working and making reforms. If that had happened, we wouldn’t be here today. Why did it take six months to form a government? Because someone wants it. I do not want to go back, but today, if we want to restore confidence and gradually reduce the dollar, reforms must be undertaken and the world must see that there is a method that is really changing in the country.
Question: Has anyone started negotiating with you to return to the government?
Hariri: No, no, I do not want anyone to negotiate with me. From now I say that I do not wish to be prime minister, I do not like it and am not thinking about it.
Question: Why did you meet with Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli today? Didn’t you talk about a new government?
Hariri: No, we did not talk about this issue at all.
Question: Do you accept to return to the government if there is an international decision to stand with Lebanon?
Hariri: What matters to me is the way to deal with things in the future and how we will work to overcome all the problems that brought us to this situation.
Question: How will you help solve this crisis, with your relationships and internal and external weight? Can you be the solution and savior of the country?
Hariri: I do not consider myself as a savior. We are all saviors. A hand alone cannot clap in this country. But I ask: Who made all the concessions in the past three years? And on whose account? Didn’t I do that at the expense of my public? And why? In order to allow the country to work. I compromised on the issue of the presidency and on the issue of the electoral law. Could we work? No, we had to stay at odds. Therefore, what I am saying today is that those who should make sacrifices are the ones in the government today, and you know who they are. They have to be humble for the Lebanese citizen in order to allow the country to breathe.
Question: Are you calling for the resignation of the current government?
Hariri: I made all the concessions that I could make. Why? Is it to be prime minister? When the problem occurred and when people asked me to resign, I immediately resigned. Unlike others who are holding on to the chair to the end.
Question: Are you with the current forensic scrutiny of the central bank?
Hariri: Let them do what they want, what do they fear? We Lebanese have nothing to hide.
Question: But it exposes the country to the outside?
Hariri: As if the country is not exposed.
Question: Where are we headed in this economic situation?
Hariri: We are going downhill. Reform is the keyword that can save Lebanon. Reform reform reform.
Question: What is the priority, a political or an economic reform?
Hariri: Political reform must take place by stopping the quotas.
Question: There are those who are calling for something like a “shut down” for all of Lebanon, and there are those who say that companies that want to build power plants require Lebanon to sign with the World Bank to start its work in order to be under its guarantee. Is the government facing conditions from all over the world?
Hariri: What we must do is to rebuild our economy. We are not bankrupt, but if we do not make all the necessary reforms quickly we will reach bankruptcy. For example, economically, the dollar exchange rate should not be 10 thousand LBP, but between 4 and 5 thousand LBP. Why does it reach 10 thousand? Because of the black market.
Question: Does the governor of the Central Bank Riad Salame bear the responsibility?
Hariri: The state borrowed 90 billion dollars, and therefore we have to find a scapegoat, who is Riad Salame.
But I will tell you one thing: any government that will do anything or think about the issue of Riad Salame will face a strict stance from the Future Movement. Not for the sake of Riad Salame, but in order to maintain stability. If the mandate or the PM think that everything will be solved if Riad Salame is sacked, then I say from now: any governor who is present in such a crisis, Riyad Salame or anyone else, must remain until we reach safety.
Question: Is the relationship completely over with the President of the Republic?
Hariri: The dispute is not with the President of the Republic, but with another person.
Question: Why didn’t you go to the dialogue table?
Hariri: Because the title was fundamentally wrong. President Michel Suleiman participated and said what he said and expressed reservations about the statement. They made a statement and wanted to release it.
Question: What are your conditions to return?
Hariri: They know them.
Question: But Gebran Bassil insists, you either come bacl back together or leave together?
Hariri: Be it. I am not in a hurry to be a prime minister. The difference between others and me is that I am not running after a chair.
Question: Do you see any seriousness from the government in dealing with the issue of the International Monetary Fund?
Hariri: No. The government put out a plan and came up with numbers. People from the same team came and suggested that the numbers be reexamined, as they might not be correct. It turned out that the numbers are lower, but the government is still insisting on its numbers. There are those who wanted to help the government and show it that its numbers are incorrect.
Question: But you praised the effort of MP Ibrahim Kanaan?
Hariri: The Finance Committee headed by MP Kanaan did the right thing. Had it not been for Speaker Berri and his obstinacy to study this issue in parliament, we would not have reached correct numbers. What Speaker Berri did was the right thing to do.
Question: Did anyone discuss with you your return to the presidency of the government?
Hariri: No one spoke to me.
Source: National News Agency