Hariri: I will return to Lebanon 'very soon'

Saad Hariri who resigned as Lebanese PM refutes rumors that he is being held in Saudi Arabia against his will.

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Elad Benari,

Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri
Reuters

Saad Hariri, whose resignation as Lebanon's prime minister a week ago sent shockwaves across the region, said Sunday he is "free" in Saudi Arabia and will return to Lebanon "very soon".

His comments came in an interview from Riyadh with his party's Future TV and were quoted by the AFP news agency.

In the inteview, Hariri brushed aside rumors that he was under de facto house arrest in the kingdom, from which he announced his surprise departure.

"I am free here. If I want to travel tomorrow, I will. I will return to Lebanon very soon," Hariri said, adding later that he would land in Beirut "in two or three days".

Hariri, 47, announced he was stepping down from his post in a televised address on November 4 from Riyadh, citing the influence of Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah as one of the reasons for his decision. He has yet to return to his native Lebanon.

"We cannot continue in Lebanon in a situation where Iran interferes in all Arab countries, and that there's a political faction that interferes alongside it," he repeated on Sunday in apparent reference to Hezbollah which, despite being a rival of Hariri's, was a member of his coalition.

"Maybe there's a regional conflict between Arab countries and Iran. We're a small country. Why put ourselves in the middle?" he added, according to AFP.

Hariri, who also holds Saudi citizenship, told journalist Paula Yaacoubian that he wrote his resignation himself and wanted to submit it in Lebanon, "but there was danger".

He also appeared to lay down an exit strategy, saying he would be willing to "rescind the resignation" if intervention in regional conflicts stopped.

"We need to respect the disassociation policy," Hariri was quoted as having said, referring to an agreement among Lebanese political factions that they would not interfere in Syria's six-year war.

He appeared to be alluding to Hezbollah's military intervention on behalf of the Syrian government, to which Hariri is opposed.

Hariri also stressed he has "excellent" ties with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an apparent effort to put to rest rumors that the Saudi crown prince had pressured him to step down.

"Really, I consider him a brother and he considers me a brother. It's an excellent and special relationship," he said, according to AFP.

Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have a historic rivalry in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called on Iran to stop its “meddling” in the affairs of the kingdom's neighbors.

Iran has fired back, accusing Saudi Arabia of trying to “drag the entire region into confrontation”.








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