The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah has declared that the country’s prime minister is currently detained in Saudi Arabia and that his “forced” resignation is unconstitutional because it was done “under pressure”.
Speaking in Beirut on Friday, Hassan Nasrallah said he was sure that Saad Hariri was forced to resign as part of what he called Saudi Arabia’s policy of stoking sectarian tensions in Lebanon.
Hariri, who announced his resignation last week in a televised address from Riyadh, has yet to return to Lebanon.
Nasrallah said Hariri is being prevented by Saudi officials from returning to Lebanon, which is why “we deem the resignation of Hariri illegal and invalid”.
“All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Saudi Arabia called the prime minister on urgent matter without his aide or advisers, and was forced to tender his resignation, and to read the resignation statement written by them,” Nasrallah said, as he accused Riyadh of “blunt, unprecedented interference”.
“We declare that the prime minister of Lebanon has not resigned.”
Nasrallah also said “Lebanon had enjoyed unprecedented stability over the past year”, and appealed for unity throughout the country.
He said US President Donald Trump must have known of the plans to force Hariri’s resignation.
The US has declined to comment on Hariri’s status.
Heather Nauert, state department spokesperson, said 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.
“[The talks] were sensitive, private, diplomatic conversations,” Nauert said on Thursday.
“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.”
Lebanese fear escalation of Iran-Saudi tensions
Nauert said Hariri’s resignation was an “internal matter that we couldn’t comment on”.
Separately, 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.
Lebanese officials have said Hariri is likely to be under either house arrest or in temporary detention in Riyadh.
His resignation on November 4 came on the same day that dozens of Saudi princes, senior ministers, businessmen were arrested in a purge carried out by a new anti-corruption committee led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, has 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 would not 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.