Sunday, 25 February, 2018


Saudi Arabia's 'captive' Lebanese PM accepts invitation to visit France

Saudi Arabia's 'captive' Lebanese PM accepts invitation to visit France Saudi Arabia's 'captive' Lebanese PM accepts invitation to visit France
Hannah Rogers | 18 November, 2017, 02:39

Speculation has swirled around the fate of Hariri, who is a dual Saudi citizen.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that Hariri was free to leave "when he pleases". The comments were published on his official Twitter account.

Aoun has refused to accept Hariri's resignation and accused the Saudis of holding him against his will.

In his strongest statements yet about the crisis, Mr Aoun said on Wednesday there was no reason for the prime minister not to return to Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is expected to accept French President Emmanuel Macron's invitation to France, where he will travel to Paris within 48 hours, according to a source quoted by Reuters.

"The accusation that the kingdom would hold a prime minister or a former prime minister is not true, especially a political ally like President Saad Hariri", Mr al-Jubeir said during a press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is visiting Saudi Arabia.

"The concerns you express fly in the face of regional realities and are addressed to the wrong side", Mr Ghassemi said in response to Mr Le Drian's comments.

Hariri hinted in the interview that he could go back on his resignation if Hezbollah stopped its involvement in regional conflicts.

Mr Hariri's Future TV in Lebanon said he will leave Saudi Arabia on Friday night.

Macron has stressed that Hariri should be able to return to Lebanon to confirm or withdraw his resignation in person.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Hariri has thrown the country into turmoil and raised concerns that it could drag Lebanon into a battle for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Many observers saw his stepping down as a power play of Riyadh against Tehran.

Its concerns have increased since Iran-aligned Houthi rebels seized the capital of neighbouring Yemen in 2014 and since the 2015 deal over Iran's nuclear programme, which led to the lifting of global sanctions.

France, the foreign ministry speaker said, is "fully aware of our country's intangible position concerning the issue of Iran's defensive affairs which are not negotiable".

Macron, on his first state visit to the Middle East last week, called for vigilance towards Tehran over its ballistic missile programme and regional activities.

The country suffered a sectarian civil war between 1975 and 1990, and has feared that the conflict in neighbouring Syria could spark new trouble.

Mr Ghassemi urged the global community to focus instead on "arms sales by some foreign powers to regional countries, which are used in particular in the devastating war in Yemen, and the support being given to Saudi Arabia and its allies, which only makes them more brazen".

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