by Ibrahim Shukralla and Nour Salman
DUBAI, 18th February, 2019 (WAM) — Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, has said that Iran has to stop meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries, urging the country to not “bite off more than they can chew”.
Siniora, who was prime minister from 2005-2009, also said that he had not seen, so far, decline in the Iranian military and political role in the Arab World despite the U.S sanctions, which came into effect three months ago.
“Past and current events have shown us that there are people who do not understand their limits,” Siniora said, referring to Iran, in an exclusive interview with Emirates News Agency, WAM.
“A flood can swallow one, two or three barriers until a huge barrier stops it. They (Iran) have carried out their authority (over other countries) many times, but ultimately when you try to bite off more than you can chew, you end up vomiting,” he added, referring to Iran’s continued meddling in the affairs of states.
When asked whether he observed any decline in the Iranian political and military role in the Arab World after the US sanctions came into effect, Siniora simply answered, “No”.
“I hope that Iran matures, it is a neighbour, and I hope that one day we can extend our hand to them on the premise that it stops interfering in Arab affairs, and for us to build ties between each other,” he added.
On January 31st, the new Lebanese government was formed after a nine-month deadlock; three ministers are affiliated with Hezbollah.
This increased representation by the Iran-backed militant group is causing heightened tensions, especially as countries in the West, including the US, as well as some Arab states, have dubbed the group as a terrorist organisation.
“They (Hezbollah) need to act with wisdom. They have a large constituency and so they would benefit from being wary of their actions, for the sake of Lebanon as a whole,” Siniora said.
The newly-formed government has also seen, for the first time, the inclusion of four women ministers, doubling their representation.
They include Raya Al Hassan, named as the Minister of Interior and Municipalities Affairs, Violette Safadi as the State Minister for Social and Economic Rehabilitation for Women and Youth, May Chidiac as the State Minister for Administrative Affairs and Development, and Nada Bustani as the Energy and Water Minister.
“I remember Raya, as I hired her when she was a fresh graduate. She worked with me at a financial institution before I became Minister of Finance. She is the first Arab female to become minister of interior; that’s a big responsibility, but I have huge confidence in her and I wish her all the best,” 75-year-old Siniora said.
“I also know May, she is a fighter who survived a bomb attack by terrorists.
“I am happy that we have four women in the Cabinet, but actions are the most important part. We need results,” he added.
Seniora explained that the Lebanese government – from the president to members of parliament – needs to look at the next phase and its requirements, “including major sector reforms, objectives necessary for the nation to take on.”
“We are here now, and we must take on sector reforms, all of which are necessary,” he said.
“Reforms in the electricity, water, roadworks infrastructure, education, and health sectors, along with public funds, are all necessary for the renewal of economic development.
“We need to place our country on the right path again,” he stressed.
Following the Arab League’s fourth Economic and Social Development Summit in January, Syria’s absence has become the main topic of conversation, since its membership of the Arab League has been frozen since the civil war broke out in 2011.
When asked on the prospects of Syria’s reinstatement, Siniora said that “we must first question why Syria’s membership was frozen”
“I lived during the time when Syria played a role (in Lebanon) in the past, but that doesn’t mean I’m against Syria or its people. We need to find solutions that benefit the country and its people. I hope that there are real solutions for Syria to return (to the Arab League) even though I don’t foresee it,” he added.
“Syria is our neighbour; I want it back, but on a solid basis,” Siniora concluded.
[Image Credit: fuadsiniora.com]