Lebanon’s president wants Prime Minister Saad Hariri to return from Saudi Arabia, saying the leader’s recent resignation was made under duress.
One week ago, Hariri, a pro-Saudi politician, said he feared for his life and resigned over what he described as Iran’s meddling in Lebanon’s affairs through the Hezbollah militant group. He made the announcement from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
But President Michel Aoun said the resignation of Hariri, a dual Saudi and Lebanese national, was “unacceptable.”
“We condemn the blunt, bare-faced Saudi intervention in our domestic affairs,” Aoun told Saudi Arabia’s envoy at a meeting in the presidential palace outside Beirut on Friday. “Any offense to the Lebanese prime minister is an offence to all Lebanese, even when he is our adversary.”
The International Support Group for Lebanon, which includes Russia, the U.S., the European Union and other countries, said Hariri should return to Lebanon.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has assured him Hariri had resigned on his own terms. But Tillerson, who was in Vietnam, said Hariri needs to return home to formally leave his post.
Since his resignation, Hariri has blasted Hezbollah, the powerful militia-political bloc, with which he shared the government, and attacked Iran. But officials in Beirut said his comments appeared to matched that of Saudi leaders as a “test of loyalty.”
This situation comes as tensions are rising between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
“It’s clear that Saudi Arabia and Saudi officials have declared war on Lebanon, and on Hezbollah,” Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah’s leader and an Aoun ally, said in a televised speech Friday.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters he’s been in contact with the leaders of both countries and is concerned about the increased tensions. It’s “important to preserve the unity, the stability of Lebanon and the functioning of its institutions,” he said.
Tillerson said: “There is no legitimate place or role in Lebanon for any foreign forces, militias or armed elements other than the legitimate security forces of the Lebanese state.”
By Allen Cone