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Lebanese PM Hariri Manhandled, Pressured to Resign by Saudis

Saad Hariri (L), Mohammed bin SalmanSaad Hariri (L), Mohammed bin Salman

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh expecting to spend the day with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but instead found himself manhandled by Saudi security forces and forced to resign his position, according to a report by the New York Times.

The report citing unnamed Lebanese and western officials, said the Lebanese leader, who also holds a Saudi passport, was only freed after lobbying by foreign diplomats, Al Jazeera reported.

Hariri had his mobile phone taken off him and was separated from most of his bodyguards except one, before being handed a pre-written resignation speech, the report said.

The televised speech in early November railed against the alleged Lebanese movement Hezbollah and Iranian interference in Lebanon, and in it Hariri claimed his life was in danger.

According to the western diplomats and Lebanese officials cited in the piece, the Saudis thought the resignation would spark anti-Hezbollah protests, which turned out not to materialize.

Senior Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun, were immediately suspicious about the prime minister’s reasons for stepping down, and set about warning Western diplomats.

Hariri eventually left Saudi Arabia after a visit by the French President Emmanuel Macron, and later made his way back to Lebanon.

According to the report, the Saudis were reprimanded by senior US state department official, David M Satterfield, for “destabilizing Lebanon”.

Lebanon is governed by a unity cabinet, in which Hezbollah holds several ministerial portfolios.

Hezbollah has insisted Hariri’s resignation was part of a Saudi plan to stoke sectarian tensions in the country.

 

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