Leaked video causes political storm in Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged calm Monday after a video emerged showing the foreign minister calling Lebanon’s powerful parliament speaker a “thug” in a closed meeting.

The leaked video, which emerged Sunday night, comes amid an escalating dispute between President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri over a decree that promoted a number of Lebanese army officers.

The foreign minister, Gibran Bassil, is Aoun’s son-in-law and heads his Free Patriotic Movement party. The footage drew the ire of Berri’s political allies, who lashed out at Bassil. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil described Bassil in a tweet as “lowly” and a “political dwarf.”

The video triggered protests Monday in some areas of Beirut. Some supporters of Berri set fire to tires and to pictures of Aoun and Bassil, shouting slogans against the foreign minister.

Hezbollah, an ally of Aoun but also traditionally an ally of Berri’s Shiite Amal movement, issued a statement categorically rejecting Bassil’s statements. Such statements “do not built a state ... but create more crises and disunity,” it said.

Hariri said “Lebanon does not need more escalation” and that he would exert all efforts to calm the political rhetoric in the country.

Lebanese politics is still dominated by the same factions that fought one another in the 1975-1990 civil war.