Hariri says he will return to Lebanon soon, leaves doubt about resignation

Elias Hubbard
November 13, 2017

Though Mr Hariri and Hizbollah had always been political rivals and at times bitter enemies, Mr Hariri managed to walk a fine line between appeasing both the group and the demands of Saudi Arabia, his own foreign patron. Organisers said more than 47,000 took part in the marathon.

In his apparently forced resignation speech, Harari said he feared assassination and he accused Iran of working with Hezbollah in sowing strife in the Arab world.

"When Hariri's plane landed in Riyadh [on his subseqent visit on the weekend of 4 November], he got the message immediately that something was wrong", a Hariri source told Reuters.

Many Lebanese have suspected Hariri was placed under house arrest as part of a Saudi plan to unravel a coalition government he had formed past year with the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah.

Ibrahim al-Masri, a 37-year-old Hariri supporter, said the Lebanese didn't know if it was Hariri's choice to stay in Saudi Arabia. But he is a strategically significant player in the relations between the two countries.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which pits the internationally recognized government, backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, against the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The fragile power-sharing arrangement reflects the historic rivalry between Sunni power Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, which are already fighting on opposing sides in Yemen and Syria.

But Saudi Arabia's war with Iran is going to put the spanner in the works.

Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has made a public address accusing Saudi Arabia of detaining Mr Hariri against his will.

President Michel Aoun on Monday said that Prime Minister Saad Hariri's remarks on the possibility of reconsidering his own resignation was a "positive" indicator.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on "all parties both within Lebanon and outside" to back off from actions that could threaten that country's stability. "Saudi Arabia is ready to pay tens of billions of dollars to Israel for that", he said. He added that Hariri says he is free to move and "we don't have any reason not to believe him". That may be an attempt to consolidate power before eventually inheriting the throne.

The coalition closed all air, land and sea access to Yemen last week following the interception of a missile fired towards the Saudi capital, saying it had to stem the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran. It also told its citizens to leave Lebanon, and avoid all travel there.

Shortly before the interview aired on Sunday night, president Aoun reiterated his belief that Mr Hariri was under duress and that anything he said should be "subject to doubt".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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