Saad Hariri, the resigned prime minister of Lebanon, has rejected rumours he is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia and pledged to return to Beirut very soon.
Hariri made the comments from Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, in his first public comments since his shock resignation eight days ago.
Speaking on Sunday on Future TV, a station affiliated with his political party, Hariri said he was free in Saudi Arabia.
“Here in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I am free. I have complete freedom, but I want to look after my family as well,” he said.
“I’m not talking about months … I’m only talking about days and I’ll go back to Lebanon.”
Why is Lebanese PM Saad Hariri still in Saudi Arabia?.
In an unexpected move, Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician and longtime ally of Saudi Arabia, quit as Lebanon’s prime minister on November 4 during a visit to Riyadh.
Hariri blamed interference in Lebanon by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for his decision to quit, adding he feared an assassination attempt.
But Lebanese officials have said Hariri is likely to be under either house arrest or in temporary detention in Riyadh
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, said Hariri’s televised appearance on Sunday was aimed at persuading the people in Lebanon that he was not being held against his will – a widespread belief in the country.
“The majority of the Lebanese believe, in one way or another, that there is something wrong,” said Khodr.
“The aim of this interview really is to try and convince the majority of the Lebanese that he is not a hostage, that he has the freedom of movement and that the Saudis are not dictating to him what to say or what to do.”
Hariri’s resignation has plunged Lebanon in fresh political turmoil, and has also stoked fears of an escalation in the regional divide between Iran and the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, with Lebanon on the front lines.
Hariri is part of a unity government that also includes rival political factions such as those supported by Hezbollah.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, on Friday said Hariri is currently detained in Saudi Arabia and that his “forced” resignation is unconstitutional because it was done “under pressure”.
Speaking in Beirut, Nasrallah he was sure Hariri was forced to resign as part of what he called Saudi Arabia’s policy of stoking sectarian tensions in Lebanon.