Lebanese president accuses Saudi Arabia of detaining PM

2017-11-15 18:32
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri gives a live TV interview in Riyadh on November 12, saying he will return to his country “within days”. During the live TV interview shown on Future TV, Hariri said he was not under house arrest in Saudi Arabia, and that he intends to return to Lebanon to withdraw his resignation and seek a settlement with rivals in the coalition government, the militant group Hezbollah. (Future TV via AP)

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri gives a live TV interview in Riyadh on November 12, saying he will return to his country “within days”. During the live TV interview shown on Future TV, Hariri said he was not under house arrest in Saudi Arabia, and that he intends to return to Lebanon to withdraw his resignation and seek a settlement with rivals in the coalition government, the militant group Hezbollah. (Future TV via AP)

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Beirut - Lebanon's president accused Saudi Arabia on Wednesday of detaining the Lebanese prime minister, an escalation in the crisis that followed Saad Hariri's surprise resignation from the kingdom almost two weeks ago.

In comments published on the official Twitter account of the president, Michel Aoun said nothing justifies that Hariri has not returned home so far.

"We consider him detained, arrested" in violation of international laws, Aoun said. It was the first time Aoun describes Hariri as a detainee. He had previously only questioned the "mysterious" circumstances under which Hariri resigned.

The rhetoric further deepens the crisis with Saudi Arabia, which is a backer of Hariri, a dual Saudi-Lebanese national.

Many believe Hariri's decision was dictated by the kingdom amid its intensifying feud with Iran over influence in the region. Iran supports Hariri's main rival in Lebanon, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is also a partner in Hariri's unity government.

Aoun refused to recognise Hariri's resignation and the Lebanese government is carrying on in a business-as-usual manner.

Seeking support

In a quick reaction to Aoun's comments, Hariri tweeted that he was fine and will return to Lebanon as promised. "You will see," Hariri said without giving a time frame for his return.

Aoun is an ally of Hezbollah but had been close to Hariri before the crisis.

The head of Future TV, affiliated with Hariri's party, says the prime minister is expected back before Sunday, when Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo in an emergency session at Saudi Arabia's urging. Riyadh is expected to discuss Iran's rising influence in the region at the meeting, as well as the Lebanese crisis.

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil said in Paris that Lebanon wants to resolve Hariri's "ambiguous" condition with Saudi Arabia in a "brotherly" fashion.

But Bassil, who is on a European tour seeking support for his country amid the crisis, said that Lebanon also has the option of resorting to international law, without elaborating. It was not immediately clear if Bassil would attend the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo.


Read more on:    saad hariri  |  lebanon  |  saudi arabia
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