Hariri: I’ll re­turn in next two days

Top ad­viser to Ira­nian leader gives ac­count at odds with Le­banese PM's

Jerusalem Post - - REGIONAL NEWS -

BEIRUT/RIYADH (Reuters) – Saad Hariri, Le­banon’s prime min­is­ter who re­signed from his post on Novem­ber 4, said on Mon­day he was fine and would re­turn to Le­banon in the next two days.

On Twit­ter, Hariri urged Le­banese to re­main calm and said his fam­ily would stay in Saudi Ara­bia, call­ing it “their coun­try.”

Hariri’s res­ig­na­tion pitched Le­banon into a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis. Top Le­banese gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and se­nior politi­cians close to Hariri be­lieve Saudi Ara­bia co­erced him into quit­ting and has been hold­ing him against his will ever since, though Hariri and Riyadh have de­nied this.

Hariri cited fear of as­sas­si­na­tion and Iran and Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah sow­ing strife in his res­ig­na­tion speech.

Le­banese Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun, who has stated that he be­lieves Riyadh is re­strict­ing Hariri’s free­dom, has re­fused to ac­cept his res­ig­na­tion un­til his re­turn from Saudi Ara­bia.

The po­lit­i­cal cri­sis has thrust Le­banon into the fore­front of the ri­valry be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Iran, which is be­ing played out on bat­tle­fields from Syria to Ye­men.

A top Ira­nian of­fi­cial’s ac­count of a key meet­ing held with Hariri right be­fore he quit is at odds with the story told by the ex-prime min­is­ter.

Hariri flew to Riyadh on Novem­ber 3, af­ter meet­ing in Beirut Ali Ak­bar Ve­lay­ati, the top for­eign pol­icy ad­viser to Ira­nian Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei.

“Hariri claims that in our meet­ing he asked Iran to stop in­ter­fer­ing in the Le­banese af­fairs, but he did not say such a thing,” Ve­lay­ati was quoted as say­ing by Ira­nian state tele­vi­sion’s web­site on Tues­day.

“Our meet­ing was not tense or vi­o­lent at all. Th­ese are all lies,” he said.

Hariri’s of­fice de­nied Ve­lay­ati’s ac­count that the Le­banese leader had of­fered to me­di­ate be­tween Iran and Saudi Ara­bia.

“Prime Min­is­ter Hariri did not of­fer me­di­a­tion be­tween any coun­tries,” a state­ment from his press of­fice said.

“He pre­sented to Ve­lay­ati his point of view about the need to stop Ira­nian in­ter­ven­tions in Ye­men as a gate­way and a pre­con­di­tion for any im­prove­ment in ties be­tween [Iran] and the kingdom,” it said.

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