Hezbollah says Saudi declares Lebanon war with Hariri detention

From Reuters - November 10, 2017

BEIRUT/PARIS (Reuters) - Hezbollahs leader said on Friday that Saudi Arabia had declared war on Lebanon and his Iran-backed group, accusing Riyadh of detaining Saad al-Hariri and forcing him to resign as Lebanons prime minister to destabilize the country.

France became the first Western country to indicate that Saudi Arabia was holding Hariri against his will, saying it wished for him to have all his freedom of movement and be fully able to play the essential role that is his in Lebanon.

Hariris resignation has plunged Lebanon into crisis, thrusting the small Arab country back to the forefront of regional rivalry between the Sunni Muslim monarchy Saudi Arabia and Shiite revolutionary Iran.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, said Saudi Arabias detention of Hariri, a long-time Saudi ally who declared his resignation while in Riyadh last Saturday, was an insult to all Lebanese and he must return to Lebanon.

Let us say things as they are: the man is detained in Saudi Arabia and forbidden until this moment from returning to Lebanon, Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

It is clear that Saudi Arabia and Saudi officials have declared war on Lebanon and on Hezbollah in Lebanon, he said.

His comments mirror an accusation by Riyadh on Monday that Lebanon and Hezbollah had declared war on the conservative Gulf Arab kingdom.

Riyadh says Hariri is a free man and he decided to resign because Hezbollah was calling the shots in his government.Saudi Arabia considers Hezbollah to be its enemy in conflicts across the Middle East, including Syria and Yemen.

Western countries have looked on with alarm at the rising regional tension.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned other countries and groups against using Lebanon as vehicle for a larger proxy fight in the Middle East, saying Washington strongly backed Lebanons independence and respected Hariri as a strong partner of the United States, still referring to him as prime minister.

There is no legitimate place or role in Lebanon for any foreign forces, militias or armed elements other than the legitimate security forces of the Lebanese state, Tillerson said in a statement released by the U.S. State Department.

Tillerson told reporters on Friday there was no indication that Hariri was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will but that the United States was monitoring the situation.

The French foreign minister said earlier on Friday that he also believed Hariri was a free man - a statement at odds with the later French foreign ministry comment that it wanted Hariri to have all his freedom of movement.

Hariri has made no public remarks since announcing his resignation in a speech televised from Saudi Arabia, saying he feared assassination and accusing Iran and Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world.


Continue reading at Reuters »