Lebanese official: Prime Minister Saad Hariri should resign "on Lebanese territory"
Lebanese are confused over resignation incident, foreign minister says
Lebanon’s foreign minister on Monday expressed doubt about the circumstances behind Saad Hariri’s sudden resignation as Prime Minister during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying he is waiting for the leader’s return to learn “the truth.”
“We heard our Prime Minister saying yesterday that he will be back to Lebanon in two, three days,” Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview from Beirut. “So, we are waiting for him … to hear from him the truth.”
Hariri unexpectedly resigned last week, saying his life was in danger. Speaking for the first time since he quit his post, Hariri told a Lebanese TV station he owns on Sunday that he will return to Lebanon “very soon and will take all the necessary constitutional steps to resign.”
Bassil said Hariri “is free to do whatever he wants,” but called for him to resign “on Lebanese territory.”
“That will be the only proof for the Lebanese, who are confused – who are truly confused – and are not convinced with what happened,” Bassil said. “We want our Prime Minister to be back, freely, in his country, where he can declare whatever he wants.”
Hariri’s emotional interview on Sunday was an attempt to end rumors he was being held against his will in the Saudi capital. But analysts said viewers appeared to pay less attention to what Hariri said and more to his mannerisms during the interview from his home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Hariri’s departure 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.
Bassil: We want ‘the best relations’ with Saudi Arabia
Bassil said Lebanon considers Saudi Arabia to be a “brotherly” country, as he appeared to try to ease any possible friction between the two countries from the incident.
“We are aiming as a people to have the best relations with our neighbors, with Arab countries including Saudi Arabia,” Bassil said.
“As much as we don’t want intervention in Saudi Arabia coming from Lebanese, we don’t want interventions in Lebanon coming from any foreign country or any aggression against Lebanon,” Bassil said.
CNN’s Darran Simon, Philip J. Victor, Amy La Porte and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.