Hariri rejected rumours he is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia
He says he will return to Lebanon "very soon" to issue formal resignation
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who unexpectedly resigned last week during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was in danger, insisted Sunday he will return to the country soon to “unite the Lebanese people.”
“I will go back to Lebanon very soon and will take all the necessary constitutional steps to resign,” Hariri told Future TV while speaking at his home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He also suggested he could rescind his resignation, saying “if I revoke my resignation, there should be respect for Lebanon.”
It was the first time Hariri has spoken publicly since resigning as Prime Minister via video message from Saudi Arabia last Saturday.
He also said the Saudi royal family has a “lot of respect for him” and that the King “sees him as a son,” brushing off concerns that he’s being held against his will.
“I am free in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. If I want to leave tomorrow, I will leave tomorrow,” he said.
“I wanted to save the country (Lebanon),” Hariri said. “It is for the country to continue and be in good shape. All I wanted to do was to preserve and protect the country.”
Last week, in a televised address from Riyadh, Hariri said he feared an assassination plot and accused Iran of meddling in the region, causing “devastation and chaos.” “Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq,” he added.
Hariri’s departure last week plunged Lebanon into a political crisis and stoked fears of a conflict, either with Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly agitated by Iran’s ascendancy in the region, or Israel, which shares Saudi Arabia’s fears about Iran even if it does not support Riyadh in public.
Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia has an ongoing rivalry with Shia-led Iran, and Lebanon is fast becoming the new setting for a proxy conflict between the two Middle Eastern powers.
Tamara Qiblawi, Angela Dewan, Chandrika Narayan and Schams Elwazer contributed to this report