Lebanon Considers Prime Minister Hariri ‘Detained’ in Saudi Arabia: Aoun

Saad Hariri Hezbollah Iran
Saad Hariri speaks to journalists following his nomination as Lebanese prime minister on November 3, 2016. Photo: AFP

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday that the government considers Prime Minister Saad Hariri to be detained in Saudi Arabia, 12 days after he left the country and announced his resignation.

“Nothing can justify that Hariri has not return after 12 days. We therefore consider him to be detained,” Mr. Auon tweeted from his official account.

Mr. Aoun further said that Mr. Hariri’s detention is an “act of aggression” against Lebanon and a violation of international law.

Mr. Hariri responded on Twitter, saying he was “fine” and reiterating a promise to return to Lebanon soon.

Mr. Hariri surprised many on November 4 when he announced his resignation as prime minister. Lebanese officials, including Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, and Tehran have accused Saudi Arabia of holding the former official against his will.

Mr. Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh on November 4, blaming Iran and Hezbollah and citing threats to his life for his decision.

Following allegations that he was under house arrest in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Hariri traveled to Abu Dhabi last Tuesday but returned to Riyadh later.

Following a visit to Saudi Arabia by French President Emmanuel Macron, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French radio station on Friday that he thought Mr. Hariri was not being held against his will.

“He went to Abu Dhabi the day before President Macron’s visit (on Wednesday) so we think he’s free to move around,” he said.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil met Mr. Macron on Tuesday, saying afterwards that Mr. Hariri must return to Lebanon and resign there.

On Sunday, Mr. Hariri, who holds citizenship in both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, pledged to return to Beirut “very soon,” but has not given a timeline.

“Here in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I am free. I have complete freedom, but I want to look after my family as well,” Mr. Hariri said in a televised speech.

Mr. Aoun has not accepted Mr. Hariri’s resignation and said Wednesday that he could not consider it while the premier is abroad.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait have all told their citizens in Lebanon to leave immediately and avoid traveling to the country.