Lebanon's President: Holding Prime Minister Hariri Is an Act of Aggression

Lebanon's President: Holding Prime Minister Hariri Is an Act of Aggression

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is free to leave Saudi Arabia "when he pleases", the kingdom said today, rejecting accusations from Beirut that he was being held in Riyadh following his shock resignation.

Lebanon's Saad al-Hariri has accepted an invitation to come to France, Reuters reported, citing a French diplomatic source.

The crisis has embroiled Lebanon in the Middle East's bitter rivalry that pits Saudi Arabia and its allies against a bloc led by Iran that includes the Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah group. He said that Saudi Arabia had violated the International Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, given that the prime minister is being held without charge.

"I will return to Lebanon very soon, ' Hariri said, adding later that he would land in Beirut 'in two or three days" - a promise which he has not kept. If I want to travel tomorrow, I will, ' Hariri said. "It's a perfectly free country", the president remarked.

"The door will open to more stability and to the ability to face all the difficulties that we have gone through", Machnouk said after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

The French president's office said yesterday that Hariri and his family had been invited to France for a "few days" but that did not mean he would stay there in exile. Hariri is expected then to flying home to Beirut to officially submit his resignation.

After meeting Hariri in Riyadh on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Hariri would "soon come to Paris".

But Hariri's older brother, breaking his silence, says he supports his brother's decision to step down over the growing demands and actions of Hezbollah.

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Bahaa Hariri's name has been mentioned in Lebanese media reports as a possible Saudi-backed candidate to replace his brother.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Hariri was seen as engineered by Riyadh and raised concerns that it would drag Lebanon, with its delicate sectarian-based political system, into the battle for regional supremacy.

His decision to quit threw Lebanon into a political crisis.

In his first public statement, sent to The Associated Press, Bahaa Hariri accused Hezbollah of seeking "to take control of Lebanon".

"He will come to France and the prince has been informed", Le Drian told reporters, referring to powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with whom he held talks the night before.

Saudi Arabia has long feared Iran's intentions in the region. After meeting Le Drian, Jubeir described Hezbollah as an arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and said it must disarm and become a purely political party for Lebanon to be stable.

France is closely allied to both Saudi Arabia and to Lebanon, which it controlled between the world wars last century.

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