Lebanon PM says free in Saudi and will return home ‘soon’

Saad Hariri, whose resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister a week ago sent shockwaves across the region, said Sunday he is “free” in Saudi Arabia and will return to Lebanon “very soon”.

In an interview from Riyadh with his party’s Future TV, Hariri brushed aside rumours that he was under de facto house arrest in the kingdom, from which he announced his surprise departure.

“I am free here. If I want to travel tomorrow, I will,” Hariri said.

“I will return to Lebanon very soon,” Hariri said, adding later that he would land in Beirut “in two or three days”.

Hariri, 47, announced he was stepping down from his post in a televised address on November 4 from Riyadh, and has yet to return to his native Lebanon.

However, Lebanese President Michel Aoun has yet to formally accept his resignation and said the premier has been “restricted” in his movements.

Hariri’s surprise resignation came as tensions rise between Riyadh and Tehran, which back opposing sides in power struggles from Lebanon and Syria to Yemen.

At the time, Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region.

“We cannot continue in Lebanon in a situation where Iran interferes in all Arab countries, and that there’s a political faction that interferes alongside it,” he repeated on Sunday in apparent reference to rival movement Hezbollah.

“Maybe there’s a regional conflict between Arab countries and Iran. We’re a small country. Why put ourselves in the middle?”

As tensions heated up, the Arab League said it would hold an extraordinary meeting next Sunday at the request of Saudi Arabia to discuss “violations” by Iran in the region, according to a document shown to AFP by diplomats on Sunday. Agencies