BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president has told foreign ambassadors that the country’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri, who resigned suddenly last week in Saudi Arabia, has been “kidnapped” and must have immunity, a senior Lebanese official told Reuters on Saturday.
President Michel Aoun has been convening high-level meetings with Lebanese politicians and foreign diplomats since Hariri resigned in a surprise broadcast from Saudi Arabia last week.
Aoun made the remark in a meeting on Friday, the official said.
Meanwhile, he has also urged the KSA to explain why Hariri had not returned to Beirut since his resignation.
“The obscurity surrounding the condition of PM Saad Hariri since his resignation a week ago means that all positions and actions declared by him or attributed to him do not reflect the truth,” Aoun added.
“They are instead a result of the ambiguous and obscure conditions (under which) PM Hariri is living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Aoun has yet to formally accept Hariri’s resignation and has criticised the circumstances surrounding it as “unacceptable”.
In his shock announcement, Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region, saying he feared for his life.
His statement prompted fears that Lebanon – dominated by rival camps led by Hariri and Hezbollah – would be caught up in spiralling tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.
“The head of the Lebanese government is detained in Saudi Arabia, he is banned from returning to Lebanon until now,” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address Friday.
Members of Hariri’s own Al-Moustaqbal (Future) party said they had no information on his fate.
And Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil announced on Friday that he was launching a “diplomatic campaign to bring back the head of our government of his own free will”.
Even world powers have appealed for calm and freedom of movement for Hariri.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday described Hariri as “a strong partner” and warned against “any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country”.
On Friday, a spokesperson for France’s foreign ministry said: “We wish Mr Saad Hariri to have all his freedom of movement and to be fully able to play the essential role that is his in Lebanon.”