Former Lebanese PM Hariri returning to Beirut after week of questions

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, R, meets former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh Monday. Hariri said Tuesday he is prepared to return to Lebanon. Photo by Saudi Press Agency/EPA

Nov. 14 (UPI) — Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned this month on a trip to Saudi Arabia, said Tuesday he’ll return to Lebanon this week.

“I am feeling very well,” Hariri tweeted, adding that he plans to return to Beirut in two days. “My family lives here in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom of goodness.”

Hariri resigned suddenly on Nov. 4 in a televised address from Saudi Arabia, in which he was critical of Iran and its dominant ally group in Lebanon, Hezbollah — whom he accused of sedition and of meddling in Arab affairs beyond their borders.

Hezbollah is involved in Syria’s civil war and supports President Bashar al-Assad. It also supports Houthi rebels in Yemen in its conflict with a Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The military battles are proxy wars that have raised tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Hariri’s resignation triggered a political crisis in Lebanon and provoked suspicion that Iran, through Hezbollah, infiltrated the Lebanese government. When Hariri appeared in Saudi Arabia, rumors began that he was coerced into leaving the prime minister’s post and that the Saudis held him hostage.

In a televised interview Sunday, Hariri expressed hope that he’d return to the prime minister’s post, if Hezbollah agreed to stay out of regional disputes. The confusing scenario suggests that Saudi Arabia might be planning a move against Iran or Hezbollah, Lebanese activist Michelle Abi Rashed said.

“Hariri’s announcement was a mistake that shows the Saudis placed pressure on him,” she said. “I’m sure they are preparing something against Hezbollah and Iran, as more than one official traveled to Saudi Arabia” to seek information on Hariri’s situation.

Tuesday’s announcement came on the same day the United Nations called for the end of a Saudi-led closure of all ports in Yemen — which were closed after a Houthi ballistic missile attack, amid fears on the part of Saudi forces that weapons were being smuggled. Riyadh announced the reopening of ports on Monday, but Hodeidah, the port through which 80 percent of Yemen’s imported food passes, remained closed Tuesday.

U.N. Yemen Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said humanitarian supplies are “dangerously low,” and said northern Yemen has only a three-week supply of vaccines, a 20-day supply of fuel and a 10-day supply of gasoline.


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