Lebanese President Michel Aoun expressed concern on Friday over reports surrounding the circumstances of Saad Hariri, who resigned as Lebanese prime minister on Saturday while in Saudi Arabia.
Aoun, in a meeting with foreign ambassadors and representatives of the United Nations, EU and Arab League in Lebanon, urged clarification of these circumstances, presidential sources said, Reuters reported.
Two top Lebanese government officials told Reuters on Thursday they believed Hariri was being held in Saudi Arabia.
A third source, a senior politician close to Hariri, said Saudi Arabia had ordered him to resign and put him under house arrest. A fourth source familiar with the situation said Saudi Arabia was controlling and limiting his movement.
Riyadh says Hariri is a free man.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA quoted a source in the foreign ministry on Thursday as saying: “Due to the situations in the Republic of Lebanon, the kingdom advised all citizens not to travel to Lebanon from any other international destinations,” Al Jazeera reported.
Only hours later, Kuwait and the UAE also urged its nationals to leave Lebanon immediately.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, threatened on Thursday to refer Hariri’s case to the UN Security Council if the “ambiguity” continues.
“The issue of Hariri’s return to the country concerns the sovereign rights of Lebanon,” Zasypkin said in an interview with Lebanese channel LBC.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe-1 radio “to our knowledge” Hariri is not being held by Saudi authorities. Hariri is “free in his movements”, he said on Friday, adding “it is up to him to make his choices”.
Le Drian’s office wouldn’t say where France’s information came from.
French President Emmanuel Macron discussed Lebanon, a former French colony, during a surprise visit on Thursday to Riyadh.
The United States declined to comment on Hariri’s situation. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a press briefing on Thursday that Chris Henzel, the US charge d’affaires in Riyadh, met Saad Hariri on Wednesday, but refused to comment on where the meeting took place or to elaborate on Hariri’s status.
“We have seen him. In terms of the conditions of him being held or the conversations between Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Hariri, I would have to refer you to the government of Saudi Arabia and also to Mr. Hariri’s office.”
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday Saudi Arabia had declared war on Lebanon and Hezbollah, and said Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who resigned in a speech from Riyadh on Saturday, was being detained in Saudi, Reuters reported.
In a televised address Nasrallah said Hariri’s resignation was an “unprecedented Saudi intervention” in Lebanese politics and called for Hariri to return to Lebanon. He said Lebanon’s government was still legitimate and had not resigned.