Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Tuesday that reports of an unpleasant meeting with former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri before the latter’s surprise resignation are untrue, and Iran wants Hariri back as prime minister.
More specifically, Velayati claimed Hariri himself is lying about the tenor of their meeting or being forced to do so by Saudi Arabia.
“Hariri claims that in our meeting he asked Iran to stop interfering in the Lebanese affairs, but he did not say such a thing. Our meeting was not tense or violent at all. These are all lies,” said Velayati.
Instead, according to the Iranian official, Hariri offered to serve as a mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia in their various disputes, and Iran was receptive to the offer.
“I told him that we do not have any problem entering negotiations with Riyadh, but tell the Saudis you have been devastating Yemen in the past three years and are preventing food and medicine to reach the Yemeni people,” Velayati claimed. “I told Hariri to ask Saudis to stop the genocide in Yemen, negotiate with Yemenis, because the Yemen issue only should be settled through the political means not blind bombardment.”
That would be difficult to square with Hariri directly accusing Iran of interfering in Lebanese politics when he resigned, and more recently saying he might consider resuming his duties as prime minister if Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah stops getting involved in conflicts such as the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.
Velayati said Iran hoped Hariri would return to his post “if Lebanese law allows.”
Hariri’s press office immediately disputed Velayati’s account of the meeting.
“Prime Minister Hariri did not offer mediation between any countries. He presented to Velayati his point of view about the need to stop Iranian interventions in Yemen as a gateway and a precondition for any improvement in ties between [Iran] and the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia],” said the press office statement.