Manama: Leading Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister-designate Sa’ad Hariri, Speaker Nabih Berri and Mufti Abdul Latef Daryan, stepped up a damage-control campaign as the country came under scathing criticism for a pro-Hezbollah journalist’s derogatory comments against the Kuwaiti Emir on the militant group’s TV station.
Al Manar aired an interview with journalist Salem Zahran in which he denigrated Arab leaders.
The journalist alleged that Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad was forced by US President Donald Trump during their five-minute meeting to cancel contracts with Chinese firms worth $11 billion. He said the US “forced” Al Sabah to not only give the same projects to US companies for $14 billion, but also pay $50 million to a US law firm to handle the cancellation of oil contracts with China and replace them with contracts with US companies.
Scrambling to contain possible repercussions from Kuwait, Hariri held a meeting with the Kuwaiti ambassador to Lebanon.
The prime minister distanced the Lebanese state from the insults, affirmed Lebanon’s admiration and respect for Kuwait, and rejected the allegations made by Al Manar against Shaikh Sabah.
“What occurred during the television programme is an act outside the Lebanese national consensus regarding relations with Kuwait and the rest of the Arab brothers,” Hariri said.
“Lebanon’s judiciary is investigating the matter and will come up with a verdict.”
The individual who uttered the allegations against Shaikh Sabah will face justice, he added.
House Speaker Nabih Berri voiced his strong rejection of any abuse towards Kuwait and its emir and stressed that “any offence to Kuwait and its emir was unacceptable and denounced by all standards,” Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported.
“The Lebanese will always remain indebted to Kuwait, its emir and people, for all their support to Lebanon in the days of hardship and prosperity, and will allow nothing to disturb the historical relationship and brotherhood ties between the two countries.”
The Mufti said any insult or abuse towards any Gulf or Arab country is an irresponsible act. Almost all political parties in Lebanon slammed the comments.
Lebanese officials said State General Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud has tasked the central criminal investigation department with the documentation of the interview script, which is a prelude to legal proceedings to be undertaken by the prosecutor general, the NNA said.
In Kuwait, the Ministry of Information strongly condemned allegations, saying that they represented “defamation, slander, the falsification of facts and an attempt to mislead the public”.
“These allegations are far from reality, containing offensive remarks that reveal evil and malicious intentions which will never affect the neighbourly and historical relations between Lebanon and Kuwait,” it said.
Several lawmakers, led by Speaker Marzouq Al Ganem, denounced the allegations.
“The claims made by an unknown [person] on Al Manar TV were not a political opinion that deserves our respect,” Al Ganem said. “They were cheap lies and contemptible fabrications. We are not here responding to the cheap claims, but we do stress that the emir is red line that cannot be crossed. He is an iconic figure who towers over the despicable media poison.”