Saudis holding PM Hariri hostage, says Lebanon President

Lebanese President on Wednesday accused Saudi Arabia of detaining its Prime Minister.

IANS| Last Updated: Nov 15, 2017, 20:10 PM IST

Beirut: Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday accused Saudi Arabia of detaining its Prime Minister Saad Hariri and called it a "hostile act".

Hariri resigned unexpectedly in a statement televised from the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 4. Aoun said "nothing justified" Hariri's continued absence and that it was a breach of his human rights, the BBC reported.

He added that he considered it an "act of aggression" against Lebanon. For his part, Hariri once again insisted on Twitter that he would soon return to Lebanon and that he was fine.

On Sunday night, Hariri said in a television interview that he was free to leave Saudi Arabia and that he had left Lebanon in order to protect himself.

The Saudi government has denied holding him against his will or putting pressure on him to resign in an attempt to curb the influence of its regional rival Iran, the BBC reported.

The Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement, an Iranian proxy that Riyadh considers a terrorist group, is part of the coalition government that Hariri formed last year.

"We will not accept him remaining a hostage whose reason for detention we do not know," Aoun said in a statement at a meeting with journalists and media executives.

"Nothing justifies the failure of Prime Minister Hariri to return for 12 days. Therefore, we consider him to be held and detained, in violation of the Vienna Convention and human rights law," he said.

"No decision can be made on a resignation from abroad," Aoun added. "He should return to Lebanon to present his resignation or withdraw it, or to discuss the reasons for it and how to address them."

"We cannot wait longer and lose time. Affairs of state cannot be stopped." The President's comments were also posted on his official Twitter account.

Those who attended the meeting cited the President as also saying that he considered Hariri's alleged detention to be an "act of aggression" by Saudi Arabia.

"This affects the dignity of all Lebanese," he said, according to several Lebanese media outlets. "Hariri and his family are restricted in freedom of movement and are under surveillance".

Hariri responded swiftly to the President's comments, writing on Twitter: "I want to repeat and affirm that I am perfectly fine and I will return, God willing, to dear Lebanon as I promised you, you'll see."