Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri last night rejected rumours he is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia and pledged to return home within days to formally submit his resignation.
Hariri spoke to al-Mustaqbal TV (Future TV) from Riyadh, the first TV appearance since his unexpected resignation eight days ago.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun had earlier claimed that Hariri was being held in Riyadh with restrictions on his freedom, whilst Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Hariri’s “resignation was a Saudi decision that was imposed on the Prime Minister. It was not his intention, not his wish and not his decision”.
Hariri said he has “complete freedom” in the country but hopes to look after his family as well, suggesting his return to Lebanon could be a matter of days. He was dismissive of suggestions he is being held captive by Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom’s Crown Prince “respects me and I respect him”.
Hariri says he will return to Lebanon to comply with the official procedure of resignation only when certain security measures are in place. “I want to feel secure, and from the moment that I ensure that, I will return to Lebanon … but without being confident about my life and the life of my family, I won’t return to Lebanon,” he said.
Hariri left open the question of whether his resignation was final, saying it was intended as a “positive shock” and withdrawing it would be conditional on Hezbollah committing to remain “neutral” on regional conflicts.
“Iran must not intervene in the affairs of Arab countries, including Lebanon via Hezbollah. I am in favour of pluralism and the political activity of parties in Lebanon from every [religious] community, but those parties need to work for the good of Lebanon, not other countries. We in Lebanon have adopted a policy of non-intervention on the subject of other countries, and this policy has been eroded in recent years,” he added.
He indicated the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese in the Gulf could be at risk, as well as trade, which is vital to the stability of the Lebanese economy.
At least five Lebanese television TV stations refused to broadcast Hariri’s speech, saying it was still unclear whether the Prime Minister was able to speak freely.