Macron urges calm as Saudi Arabia calls citizens out of Lebanon | News | DW | 09.11.2017
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Macron urges calm as Saudi Arabia calls citizens out of Lebanon

France's Emmanuel Macron on a trip to Riyadh has called for deescalation of tensions with Tehran as crises in Yemen and Lebanon boil over. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait urged their citizens to leave Lebanon.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged calm in a face-to-face meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday in which they discussed developments in Lebanon.

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Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri resigns

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in a shock announcement broadcast from Riyadh on Saturday, citing Iran's "grip" on his country and threats to his life.

Macron said he had heard some very hard positions "taken by Saudi Arabia against Iran," adding that it was important to speak to all sides and that France had a role to play in making peace.

"The French president condemned the Huthi missile attack on Riyadh, stressing France's stand and solidarity with the Kingdom," the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

On Iran, Macron has repeatedly said that he wanted to keep the landmark 2015 nuclear deal despite opposition from US President Donald Trump.

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

Saudi Arabia urges its citizens to leave Lebanon

All Saudi citizens, including those residing in Lebanon, should leave Lebanon immediately, the oil-rich Kingdom announced on Thursday.

Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates also called on their citizens to avoid traveling to Lebanon on Thursday and recommended their citizens leave the country if they are currently within Lebanon's borders. Bahrain had issued a similar warning on Sunday.

The move comes at the time of escalating tensions in the region between the Saudi-led block and Iranian-backed elements in Lebanon, with Lebanon still reeling from the unexpected resignation of Hariri.

'Fear and destruction'

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Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri resigns

Political power in Lebanon is divided among the Sunnis, the Shiite, and the Maronite Christians, with Sunnis holding the prime-ministerial post. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, resigned while on a visit to Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

In a pre-recorded video, he accused Iran and the powerful Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah of sowing "fear and destruction" across the region. He also alluded to his father, Rafik Hariri, who also served as prime minister until he was assassinated in 2005, presumably by Hezbollah.

In his address from Saudi Arabia, Saad Hariri suggested there was a similar assassination plot against his life.

Hariri has so far ignored the calls from his own Future Movement to return to Lebanon.

Read more: Suffering in Yemen is on Saudi leaders' hands

Saudi authorities 'imposed' Hariri's resignation

Many Lebanese, however, doubt Hariri's reasons for resigning. Responding to Hariri's move, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah told the nation that Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to step down.

"It is clear that the resignation was a Saudi decision that was imposed on Prime Minister Hariri. It was not his intention, not his wish and not his decision," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

Many have claimed that the Saudi authorities keep Hariri under house arrest, but members of his party denied those rumors. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has refused to consider the resignation before the two meet in person.

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Beirut seem set to become a new battleground for regional rivals

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia accused Hezbollah of declaring war and said it would deal with Lebanon as a hostile state as long as the militia was involved in the Lebanese government.

Read more: Saudi Arabia says Lebanon declared war

While many details remain unclear, Lebanon seems set to take on a major role in the standoff between the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Iran, as the two countries back their players in wars in Syria and Yemen.

dj,jbh/sms (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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