BEIRUT — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticized a top Iranian general Monday for comments he reportedly made recently in which he praised Iran-backed groups for making gains in last month’s parliamentary elections.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member parliament in the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Lebanese media aired a video posted on social media showing Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite fighting Quds Force, saying that Hezbollah’s victory came at a time when some Arab countries labeled it and its leaders as terrorists.
Hariri told reporters later Monday that the comments are “regrettable,” adding that interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs is “not in their (Iran’s) interest, nor those of Lebanon or the region.”
“If some have lost in Iraq, it does not mean that they should seek to compensate for their loss somewhere else,” he said, according to Lebanese news site Naharnet, an apparent reference to Iran’s waning influence in Baghdad.
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the US and Israel, but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon’s parliament and is part of Lebanon’s outgoing coalition government.
Hariri has been tasked with forming a new government, after elections last month saw Hezbollah make major gains. Because of Lebanon’s fractured power-sharing system, the prime minister must come from the Sunni community.
On Monday, Hariri presented President Michel Aoun with a draft list for his cabinet.
At the same time, Hezbollah parliamentary bloc head Mohammed Raad said his party and its allies had enough power to block any bills it did not like, and push through other legislation, according to Naharnet.
Soleimani said Hezbollah had 74 seats, apparently referring to the terror group and its allies.
Hezbollah, which won 13 seats in the 128-member legislature, did not name its own candidate for the premiership as it has done in the past — signaling it will likely go along with Hariri’s re-appointment despite tense relations between the Iran-allied Shiite group and the Western-backed Hariri.
A UN-backed tribunal has indicted five Hezbollah members in the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father and former premier Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah denies the charges.
AFP contributed to this report.