Pa­tri­arch sup­ports Hariri over Ira­nian med­dling in Lebanon I sup­port his rea­sons for re­sign­ing, Ma­ronite Church leader says on his­toric Saudi visit Talks with king and crown prince fo­cus on re­li­gious tol­er­ance, fight­ing ex­trem­ism

Arab News - - FRONT PAGE - MO­HAMMED RASOOLDEEN & NAJIA HOUSSARI

Pa­tri­arch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi met Hariri in Riyadh, and also had sep­a­rate talks with King Sal­man and Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

Hariri re­signed on Nov. 4 in a dra­matic state­ment in Riyadh in which he com­plained of Ira­nian in­flu­ence in Lebanon through Hezbol­lah, and said he feared for his life.

“I am fully con­vinced by the rea­sons for his res­ig­na­tion,” the pa­tri­arch said af­ter meet­ing Hariri on Tues­day. “He was ex­press­ing some­thing he felt in his heart and ex­pe­ri­ence. He will re­turn to Lebanon as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Hariri con­firmed this. “Ev­ery­body, I’m to­tally fine. God will­ing, I’ll be back in th­ese two days. Let’s calm down,” he said on so­cial me­dia. He said his fam­ily would re­main in Saudi Ara­bia, which was “their coun­try.”

In a TV in­ter­view on Sun­day, Hariri said he would re­con­sider his res­ig­na­tion if Hezbol­lah ended its de­struc­tive ac­tiv­i­ties in Lebanon. If that hap­pened, Al-Rahi said on Tues­day, “a new era would be­gin, God will­ing, and a new march. Let’s al­ways look for­ward.

“But there needs to be some dis­cus­sions with Pres­i­dent (Michel) Aoun, Par­lia­ment Speaker Nabih Berri and Le­banese lead­ers about the is­sues that made him resign, and for which he said on Sun­day that he was pre­pared to re­sume his ser­vice of this home­land, which he loves.”

Al-Rahi leads Lebanon’s pow­er­ful Ma­ronite com­mu­nity, and his two-day visit to Saudi Ara­bia is not only un­prece­dented but sig­nif­i­cant. The pa­tri­arch shares the Saudi lead­er­ship’s views on re­li­gious tol­er­ance and com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism, is­sues he dis­cussed on Tues­day with the king and the crown prince.

They “re­viewed fra­ter­nal re­la­tions be­tween the King­dom and Lebanon and con­firmed the im­por­tance of the role of dif­fer­ent re­li­gions and cul­tures in pro­mot­ing tol­er­ance, and re­nounc­ing vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

Af­ter the meet­ing, the pa­tri­arch said: “I can as­sure you that we are re­turn­ing car­ry­ing an ode of love for the coun­try and we must work to­gether, each from his own po­si­tion… in or­der to por­tray the beau­ti­ful face of Lebanon, which we need very much.”

Noth­ing should af­fect re­la­tions be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Lebanon, the pa­tri­arch said. “And even if spe­cial cir­cum­stances oc­curred, they should not af­fect the cur­rent friend­ship. And this is what we heard to­day from the king and the crown prince.”

Al-Rahi left Riyadh on Tues­day evening for church meet­ings at the Vat­i­can.

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RIYADH/BEIRUT: The head of the Ma­ronite Church, on a his­toric visit to Saudi Ara­bia, de­clared his back­ing on Tues­day for Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri and said he sup­ported the rea­sons for Hariri’s res­ig­na­tion.

King Sal­man holds talks with Le­banese Pa­tri­arch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, head of the Ma­ronite Church, cen­ter, at Al-Ya­mamah Palace in Riyadh on Tues­day. (SPA)

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