Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri claimed on Friday that Israel "knows very well there are no missile factories in Lebanon."

"The Israelis are used to conducting campaigns of deception. They say Hezbollah controls Lebanon, and that is not true," Hariri told French newspaper Le Monde, as quoted by Yediot Aharonot.

"Hezbollah is present. It's in the government and it has support in the country. But this doesn't mean Hezbollah controls all of Lebanon," claimed the Lebanese Prime Minister.

He was addressing foreign reports, confirmed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as well as top IDF officials, that Iran is building missile factories in Lebanon to arm Hezbollah with guided missiles.

Hariri said that Lebanon's problem with Israel was that "its leaders always speak about war and security and never about peace. The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz left Lebanon in 2002 with the Arab peace initiative. What has Israel done in relation to that? Nothing."

Hezbollah is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the United States but nevertheless holds seats in parliament and has a strong political presence in Lebanon. The group is a member of Hariri's government.

Hariri is the son of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, an act blamed on Hezbollah.

In the interview with Le Monde, Hariri was also asked about American and Israeli calls to change and expand the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to foil Hezbollah arms smuggling into southern Lebanon, as well as about the American threat to stop its military aid to Lebanon over its army's ties to Hezbollah.

"I was in Washington in the spring and met with President Trump and visited Congress. To them, Hezbollah really is a cause for concern," Hariri responded.

"I asked them whether their problem was with Hezbollah or with the Lebanese people. The war against ISIS showed everyone the Lebanese army's abilities. Since my visit to Washington, the American administration knows more about what we're doing to strengthen all of the institutions of the Lebanese state and military, and the American aid to the Lebanese army will continue,” he continued.

"The opinions and positions regarding Hezbollah and its role are different, but we've reached an agreement to put all of the unresolved regional issues aside, so it will not affect the government's activity, the state and the economy," Hariri stressed.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

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