Hariri says will return to Lebanon in days

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BEIRUT: Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on November 4 while in Saudi Arabia, said on Sunday he would return to his country within days.

Speaking from Saudi Arabia in an interview with Future TV, a station affiliated with his political party, Hariri said he had offered his resignation in the interest of Lebanon.

He also said Lebanon could face Arab sanctions.

Hariri resigned last week in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia and has yet to return to Lebanon. Lebanon’s president has refused to accept the resignation until he returns.

Hariri’s resignation thrust Lebanon back to the forefront of a struggle that is reshaping the Middle East, between the conservative Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran.

In his interview, Hariri said Lebanon must remain neutral in regional conflicts.

Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Sunday that Hariri’s freedom was being restricted in Riyadh, the first time the Lebanese government has publicly declared its belief that Saudi Arabia is holding its prime minister against his will.

Aoun said Hariri was living in “mysterious circumstances” in Riyadh which had “reached the degree of restricting (his) freedom” and “imposing conditions on his residency and on contact with him even by members of his family”.

Aoun said this threw doubt over anything that Hariri has said, or will say, and his statements could not be considered as an expression of his full free will.

Saudi Arabia has denied Hariri is being held against his will or that he had been forced to resign.