Lebanon's Hariri Says He Will Return Home in Two Days

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Lebanon's Maronite Patriarchate meets with the resigned prime minister, Saad Hariri, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 14, 2017.
Lebanon's Maronite Patriarchate meets with the resigned prime minister, Saad Hariri, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 14, 2017. Credit: HO/AFP

Saad Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister who resigned from his post on November 4, said on Monday he was fine and would return to Lebanon in the next two days.

Writing on Twitter, Hariri urged Lebanese to remain calm and said his family would stay in Saudi Arabia, calling it "their country." 

Hariri's resignation while in Saudi Arabia pitched Lebanon into political crisis. 

Top Lebanese government officials and senior politicians close to Hariri believe Saudi Arabia coerced him into quitting and has been holding him against his will ever since, though Hariri and Riyadh have denied this. 

Hariri cited fear of assassination and accused Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world during his resignation speech. 

Hariri gave his first public remarks on Sunday, saying in a televised interview in Riyadh he planned to return to Lebanon within days to affirm his resignation. 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who has stated that he believes Riyadh is restricting Hariri's freedom, has refused to accept his resignation until his return from Saudi Arabia. 

The political crisis has thrust tiny Lebanon to the forefront of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran being played out on battlefields from Syria to Yemen. 

Patriarch supports resignation

Lebanon's Christian Maronite Patriarch, visiting Saudi Arabia in an historic visit, expressed support on Tuesday for the reasons behind Hariri's resignation.

Patriarch Bechara al-Rai met Hariri as well as King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of a trip that was planned well before the Lebanese political crisis.

"Hariri is returning as fast as possible and I support the reasons for his resignation," Rai was quoted as saying by Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television. 

Rai's trip has come under heightened scrutiny in light of Hariri's resignation, but an official visit to Saudi Arabia by such a senior non-Muslim cleric is significant as a rare act of religious openness by the conservative Muslim country. 

The kingdom hosts the holiest sites in Islam and bans the practice of other religions, forcing Christians to risk arrest by praying in private homes.

Mohammed bin Salman says he wants Saudi Arabia to open up more to the world. In addition to imposing radical economic reforms, the 32-year-old heir-apparent has pledged to relax strict social norms and revive a "middle-of-the-road, moderate Islam open to the world and all religions, traditions and people."

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