BEIRUT - Lebanon's Bahaa al-Hariri said on Friday that he will continue the journey of his father, the late Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and would "enter the battle to take back" the country.
Bahaa's younger brother, Lebanon's veteran Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri, a three times prime minister, said earlier this week that he would not run in a forthcoming parliamentary election and was suspending his role in political life, calling on his political party to do the same.
Saad's decision opened a new phase in Lebanon's sectarian politics and will accelerate the fragmentation of the Sunni community which his family dominated for 30 years with Saudi support.
Bahaa, 55, who has not held public office before and largely kept away from politics, said in a recorded speech sent to news outlets that he "will fight the battle to restore the country and restore the sovereignty of the country from its occupiers."
A businessman whose interests include real estate investments in Lebanon and Jordan, Bahaa, a Lebanese-Saudi national, said that he would continue his father's path.
He added that "any misinformation or intimidation" alluding to a power vacuum among Lebanon's Sunni Muslims "serves only the enemies of the country."
Saad cited Iran's influence as one of the reasons he saw little hope of positive change for Lebanon.
His move has injected huge uncertainty into Lebanese politics just months ahead of the election, in which Hezbollah's adversaries had hoped to overturn a majority it won with its allies in 2018.
Bahaa has been an open, fierce critic of his brother's policy towards Iran-backed Shi'ite group, Hezbollah.
"The son of the martyr Rafik Hariri will not leave Lebanon, I am with you and very soon I will be among you," Bahaa said in his speech.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky) ((Nayera.Abdallah@thomsonreuters.com;))