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
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)