LE­BANON PM TO RE­TURN HOME ‘SOON’

Millennium Post - - FRONT PAGE -

BEIRUT: 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”.

In an in­ter­view from Riyad­hwith his party’s Fu­ture TV, Hariri brushed aside ru­mours 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,” Hariri said. “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, and has yet to re­turn to his na­tive Le­banon.

How­ever, Le­banese Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun has yet to for­mally ac­cept his res­ig­na­tion and said the pre­mier has been “re­stricted” in his move­ments. Hariri’s sur­prise res­ig­na­tion came as ten­sions rise be­tween Riyadh and Tehran, which back op­pos­ing sides in power strug­gles from Le­banon and Syria to Ye­men.

At the time, Hariri ac­cused Iran and its Le­banese ally Hezbol­lah of tak­ing over his coun­try and desta­bil­is­ing the broader re­gion.

“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 ri­val move­ment Hezbol­lah.

“Maybe there’s a re­gional con­flict be­tween Arab coun­tries and Iran. We’re a small coun­try. Why put our­selves in the mid­dle?”

Wear­ing a suit and tie and with a Le­banese flag in the back­ground, the for­mer pre­mier looked tired on Sun­day and spoke softly but firmly through­out the in­ter­view.

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”.

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