Hariri lives in mysterious circumstances with restricted freedom: Aoun
Lebanese President Michel Aoun says Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia, is living in “mysterious circumstances” with restricted freedom in Riyadh.
Aoun said Hariri was living in “mysterious circumstances” in Riyadh, which had “reached the degree of restricting (his) freedom” and Riyadh had imposed “conditions on his residency and on contact with him even by members of his family,” Lebanon’s presidency said in a statement on Sunday.
He added that this threw doubt over anything that Hariri has said, or will say, and emphasized that the premier’s statements could not be considered as an expression of his full free will.
Meanwhile, Saad al-Hariri claims he is not being held captive in Saudi Arabia and will be returning to his country in the next few days.
Hariri made the remarks on Sunday during an interview with the Lebanese TV channel Future TV.
He further said that his resignation had been given in the interest of Lebanon, and that the country may be facing Arab sanctions.
“I am free here. If I want to travel tomorrow, I will…I will return to Lebanon very soon,” he said, adding that he would return to Beirut “in two or three days.”
Hariri added that would be willing to “rescind the resignation” if intervention in regional conflicts stopped.
Maronite leader visits Riyadh amid Hariri mystery
In another development, a top Lebanese Christian religious figure was heading to Saudi Arabia on Monday afternoon with the hope of meeting Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri whose surprise resignation in Riyadh has raised many questions.
The visit by Cardinal Bechara el-Rai, who heads the Maronite sect, is the latest in Lebanon’s efforts to allay fears about the circumstances surrounding Hariri’s fate in Saudi Arabia.
The Maronite sect is Lebanon’s largest Christian community and the Middle East’s largest Catholic church, to which President Michel Aoun also belongs.
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry on Monday pledged to keep up pressure on Saudi Arabia not to impede Hariri’s return, the Al Akhbar paper reported, citing sources within the ministry.
Government sources said Hariri’s announcement to return to Beirut soon showed that the House of Saud regime had backed down on its stances.
Lebanon however could not lend any credence to his claims until he was back, and that it was not yet clear whether Riyadh would allow his return, they added.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is also said to begin a foreign tour soon to lobby for Hariri’s return with European countries, starting with Russia, adding the country would seek recourse to other means if the efforts did not yield results.
French President Emanuel Macron visited Saudi Arabia but unconfirmed media reports said he had not been granted a meeting with Hariri. Also on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for “non-interference” in Lebanon.