Arab League: Egypt 'blocked' Saudi bid to expel Lebanon
The Saudi proposal led by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was for Lebanon to be booted out of the pan-Arab body for failing to endorse Riyadh's policy against Hizballah, the sources said.
Hizballah's participation in the Lebanese government has triggered the worst dipomatic crisis between Riyadh and Beirut in recent memory. It comes after Saudi Arabia accused the powerful Lebanese group of arming the Yemen rebels, strong-arming the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign earlier this month.
Egypt, which despite being a close ally of Saudi Arabia has pursued a different policy on Hizballah and Syria, instead proposed a de-escalation initiative, the diplomatic sources told The New Arab.
The initiative calls for ending media attacks from both sides, ending Hizballah's backing for Houthi rebels in Yemen, and guaranteeing the security of Gulf Arab citizens in Lebanon.
In return, Saudi Arabia would roll back its recent escalation against Lebanon and "safeguard its fragile composition", according to the sources, in reference to Lebanon's delicate political configuration.
|Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday lashed out at Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hizballah, accusing them of destabilising the region
On Monday, Iran rejected a harsh statement by Arab League foreign ministers condemning the Islamic Republic and its ally Hizballah, saying the tirade was "full of lies" and the product of Saudi "pressure and propaganda".
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Christian ally of Hizballah, also rejected the Arab League statement, which had accused the militant group of terrorism and of supporting "terrorist groups" across the region.
Aoun said Lebanon had been subjected to Israeli "aggression" for decades and had the right to defend itself.
Hizballah, the only Lebanese group to retain its arms after the 1975-1990 civil war, forced Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000.
It continues to portray itself as Lebanon's first line of defense, while the political wing of the movement is part of the coalition government.
Aoun said Lebanon rejects any accusation that its government "is a partner in terrorist attacks".
Tensions spiked between Saudi Arabia and Iran after the Houthis fired a ballistic missile that was intercepted outside Riyadh earlier this month. Saudi Arabia has accused Iran and Hizbllah of arming the rebels, charges denied by both.