Lebanon: France calls for ′non-interference,′ Hariri to return | News | DW | 13.11.2017
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Lebanon crisis

Lebanon: France calls for 'non-interference,' Hariri to return

Iran has denied interfering in Lebanon, whose premier remains in Saudi Arabia. Saad Hariri says he can move freely in Riyadh and plans to return to Beirut "very soon."

Iran's foreign ministry issued a statement via state television Monday saying it "does not interfere in Lebanon's affairs" as France called for "non-interference" almost simultaneously.

Multiple strains between Saudi Arabia and Iran stem in part from Tehran's backing for the Lebanon-based militia Hezbollah, which has in the past intervened in neighboring Syria in support of President Bashar Assad.

Read more: Lebanon: Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry finds new battlefront

Arriving for a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, France's Jean-Yves Le Drian said a political solution in Lebanon required non-interference and "total freedom of movement for all political leaders."

Hariri, who also holds Saudi citizenship, shocked Lebanon on November 4 when he announced his resignation out of Riyadh, although Lebanese President Michel Aoun has not yet formally accepted it.

In an interview with his Lebanese party's Future TV on Sunday, Hariri brushed aside rumors he was under house arrest and said he would return home "very soon," adding later "in two or three days."

In an apparent response Monday, an unnamed visitor to President Aoun cited by Reuters said that Beirut's campaign to get Hariri's return had brought "positive results."

Saad Hariri (Reuters/M. Azakir)

Hariri: looking tired during the interview

Reports also emerged that the head of Lebanon's Maronite Christian sect, Cardinal Bechara el-Rai, was to set out late Monday on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, which would include talks with Hariri.

During the interview, a tired-looking Hariri said he would be willing to "rescind the resignation" if intervention in regional conflicts stopped.

"Maybe there's a regional conflict between Arab countries and Iran. We are a small country. Why put ourselves in the middle?

"We need to respect the disassociation policy," Hariri added, referring to an agreement among Lebanese political factions that they not interfere in Syria's six-year war.

On Friday Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah claimed that Hariri was "detained in Saudi Arabia; he is banned from returning to Lebanon."

In his Sunday interview, Hariri said he had "excellent" ties with influential Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"Really, I consider him a brother and he considers me a brother. It's an excellent and special relationship," Hariri said.

A special Arab League meeting on Lebanon's crisis has been scheduled for next Sunday, according to the French news agency AFP.

Hariri has been described as a "strong partner" by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

He warned against any party "using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country."

ipj/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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