Hariri plans to return to Lebanon, warns of sanctions over Hezbollah


Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Saturday Hariri, who announced his resignation in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia, has been "kidnapped" and must have immunity.

"I am free here".

"I am freely in the Kingdom, and if I want to travel tomorrow, I will travel".

"We hope that Hariri will return to Lebanon as soon as possible" and formally submit his resignation, he said.

Aoun said he would not accept Hariri's resignation until he returns to Lebanon to explain his position.

Wearing a suit and tie and with a Lebanese flag in the background, Hariri looked exhausted and spoke softly but firmly throughout the interview.

Cardinal Bechara el-Rai's visit, the first ever by a Maronite patriarch to the kingdom according to the cardinal, has taken on special significance since Hariri announced his resignation in a surprise statement broadcast from Riyadh on November 4.

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri gives his first televised interview on November 12, 2017, eight days after announcing his resignation.

"Lebanon's issues are related to the Lebanese themselves and we will not interfere in Lebanon's issues and based on our principled policies, we never interfere in other countries' internal affairs", Qassemi told reporters in his weekly press conference in Tehran on Monday.

Hariri said Saudi Arabia wants Lebanon to stay clear of regional conflicts, and not to side with Iran.

"We expect no external interference in this national agenda. Why put ourselves in the middle?" He also seemed to indicate he did not support Hezbollah becoming involved in a conflict against Israel.

"I am not against Hezbollah as a party, I have a problem with Hezbollah destroying the country", Hariri said during the interview. He said Hezbollah has not kept up its end of the deal.

"We will carry these concerns to the king and crown prince and wish well", he said.

Many authorities in Lebanon have insisted on the return of Hariri from Saudi Arabia. He added that anything Hariri has said or may say "does not reflect reality" due to the mystery of his situation.

"Really, I consider him a brother and he considers me a brother".

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believed the Trump administration was still seeking to help the Saudis advance their interests against Iran without destabilizing the region.

When asked to comment on whether the United States was pushing for a more cautious Saudi response, both the White House and State Department referred to Saturday's statement on Lebanon.