Lebanon asks Saudi Arabia for explanation on PM's absence

Mohammed bin Salman

War fear racks Lebanon

USA and European diplomats have met with Hariri in Riyadh, but a senior administration official, asked if Hariri was free to leave Saudi Arabia, said, "We don't know". But on Monday, Mr Aoun appeared to moderate his stance, saying Mr Hariri's remarks proved the consensus government he had presided over during the past year could remain in place, according to Reuters.

Hariri's week-long absence from Lebanon has sparked rumours that the ex-premier - who also holds Saudi nationality - is under de facto house arrest in the kingdom.

The interview, which was announced early on Sunday, comes just over a week after Al Hariri's shock resignation from Riyadh.

Lebanese government officials and senior sources close to Hariri believe Saudi Arabia coerced him into quitting and has put him under effective house arrest since he flew to Saudi Arabia on November 3.

Saad al-Hariri warned on Sunday Lebanon was at risk of Gulf Arab sanctions because of the Shiite group Hezbollah's regional meddling and said he would return to Lebanon within days to affirm he had resigned as the country's prime minister.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

Bahaa is believed to be in Saudi Arabia, and members of the Hariri family have been asked to travel there to pledge allegiance to him, but they have refused, the sources say.

A picture of Lebanon's prime minister appeared this week on the front of a popular daily newspaper below the headline "The Hostage". "Political parties are allowed, but are they allowed to play a foreign role and make us Lebanese carry its weight?" This year, President Michel Aoun encouraged runners to call on Hariri to return.

The move - which has still to be accepted by Aoun - thrust Lebanon back into the forefront of the regional tussle between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and the Shi'ite Islamist government of Iran.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said "we are preoccupied by the situation in Lebanon".

In Riyadh, meanwhile, Mr Hariri received the EU, German and British ambassadors to Saudi Arabia at his residence.

Saudi Arabia also closed the borders of Yemen after a missile from the country - fired by Houthi rebels allied with Iran - was intercepted near Riyadh.

"The greatness of the nation of Iran in the region is more than at any other time".

"Hariri's willingness to reach a compromise with Hizbollah and retract his resignation, in addition to the conciliatory tone of his interview vis-à-vis Hizbollah, indicates it's now likely a solution can be reached similar to the status quo-ante".

El-Rai heads the Maronite sect, Lebanon's biggest Christian community and the Middle East's largest Catholic church that enjoys wide influence in the country.

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