Hariri rules out peace talks with Israel

Head of winning coalition in Lebanon election: We will follow the Arab initiative, and join in as we see fit.

Saad Hariri 248.88 (photo credit: )
Saad Hariri 248.88
(photo credit: )
Lebanon will not conduct an independent peace track with Israel, and may not even join the Arab peace initiative, should it become the basis for regional negotiations, Sa'ad Hariri, the billionaire businessman who is the favorite to lead Lebanon's government following Sunday's elections, said on Tuesday. "We will follow after the Arab initiative," he told CNN. "You see, the Arab initiative includes many countries for the peace process, and Lebanon will come as we see fit." Earlier, when the interviewer reminded Hariri about comments made by pundits suggesting that Lebanon would be the last country to make peace with Israel, the coalition leader readily agreed with the view. "[Other people don't say that,] I say that," he told the station. Legislative allies said Tuesday that Hariri, the 39-year-old moderate leader of the largest parliamentary bloc in the winning coalition, is expected to replace his ally Fuad Saniora, after his pro-Western coalition fended off a serious challenge from Iranian-backed Hizbullah in weekend elections. Hariri's alliance dealt a major setback to Hizbullah and its Syrian and Iranian backers in Sunday's vote, gaining 68 seats to the opposing group's 57. The other three seats in the 128-member parliament went to independents. Fears of Iran gaining more influence in the Arab country swayed Christian swing voters away from the coalition led by the Shi'ite group and helped deliver the election victory to the US-aligned camp. Analysts and voters said Tuesday that President Barack Obama's outreach to the Muslim world also helped blunt the appeal of the group.