In a television interview, the Saudi-allied Hariri held out the possibility he could yet rescind his resignation if Hezbollah agreed to stay out of regional conflicts such as Yemen, his first public comments since he read out his resignation on television from Riyadh eight days ago.
He indicated the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese in the Gulf could be at risk, as well as trade, vital to the stability of the Lebanese economy.
Hariri said his resignation was intended as a “positive shock” to his country, which he saw in danger.
Top Lebanese government officials and senior sources close to Hariri believe Saudi Arabia coerced Hariri into resigning and has put him under effective house arrest since he flew to Saudi Arabia over a week ago.
Ahead of his interview, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Hariri’s movements were being restricted in Saudi Arabia, the first time the Lebanese authorities have publicly declared their belief that Riyadh is holding him against his will.
Hariri said he was a free man.
The resignation and its aftermath have thrust Lebanon back to the forefront of the conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran. Aoun refused to accept Hariri’s resignation unless he tendered it in person in Lebanon.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned, is seen during Future television interview, in a coffee shop in Beirut, Lebanon November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi
HARIRI SAYS CAN TRAVEL “TOMORROW” IF HE WANTS
Hariri, who has not returned to Lebanon since he declared his shock resignation, said he stepped down for the sake of the Lebanese national interest, repeatedly saying the country must stick by a policy of “disassociation” from regional conflict.
“I am freely in the Kingdom, and if I want to travel tomorrow, I will travel,” Hariri said of his presence in Saudi Arabia. He said he would return to Lebanon within two or three days.
When he resigned on Nov. 4, he said he feared assassination. His father, a long-serving former prime minister, was killed by a bomb in 2005. Hariri said he must be sure his security had not been penetrated before returning.
Hariri’s eyes welled up with tears at one point in the interview. Asked by the interviewer if he would take more questions, Hariri said no because he was tired.
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