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Saudi Arabia holding Lebanon's Hariri as political prisoner: source

The Lebanese head of state has yet to formally accept Hariri's resignation [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 November, 2017

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Lebanon's prime minister is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia, where he was forced to resign a week ago by authorities in Riyadh, a source has said.

Lebanon's prime minister is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia, where he was forced to resign a week ago by authorities there, a source close to the premier said on Sunday.

Saad Hariri is currently waiting in Riyadh for Saudi authorities to give him orders on what they want him to do next, a Hariri source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The New Arab on Sunday.

Hariri announced on November 4 in a televised statement from Riyadh that he would be stepping down from the post, sending shock waves through Lebanese politics.

In his shock announcement, Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizballah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region, saying he feared for his life.

The premier has yet to return to Lebanon and rumours have swirled that he is being held in Saudi Arabia against his will as a part of a Saudi plan to unravel a coalition government he had formed with Hizballah last year.

"Hariri is not detained in a legal sense of the word but we can say that his political decision-making has been taken away," the source said.

He explained that before the resignation Saudi authorities told the premier: "Are you with us or against us? If you are with us, you have to resign and declare a war of words on Hizballah and Iran."

According to the source, Hariri is currently unable to leave Saudi Arabia and is waiting for orders from Riyadh as to what they want from him next.

He added that Saudi authorities refused to grant Hariri permission to travel to France for an interview with Lebanese media set to take place late on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up its rhetoric against Hizballah and its patron, Iran, accusing both of supporting rebels in Yemen known as the Houthis. A Saudi-led coalition has been at war with the Houthis since March 2015.

Saudi Arabia has asked its citizens to leave Lebanon, and many Lebanese fear further economic sanctions or even military action against their country.

On Saturday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun called on the kingdom to "clarify the reasons that have prevented the return of PM Hariri to Lebanon to be among his people and supporters".

"The obscurity surrounding the condition of PM Saad Hariri since his resignation a week ago means that all positions and actions declared by him or attributed to him do not reflect the truth," Aoun added.

"They are instead a result of the ambiguous and obscure conditions (under which) PM Hariri is living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Aoun on Saturday spoke by phone to French President Emmanuel Macron on the "latest developments" around Hariri's resignation, Lebanon's presidency said in a statement.

The Lebanese head of state has yet to formally accept Hariri's resignation and has criticised the circumstances surrounding it as "unacceptable".

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