Lebanese President Michel Aoun says Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia, has been “kidnapped” and must have immunity.
Aoun made the remarks in a meeting with foreign ambassadors in the capital Beirut, a senior unnamed Lebanese official told Reuters on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in a statement released by Aoun’s office on Saturday, the Lebanese president expressed concern over Hariri’s situation and said the premier was living in a “dubious” situation in Saudi Arabia. He added that anything Hariri has said or may say “does not reflect reality” due to the mystery of his situation.
Any stance or move by Hariri “is the result of the dubious and mysterious situation that he is living in the kingdom,” Aoun said.
Aoun further called on Riyadh to clarify why Hariri hasn’t returned home since announcing his resignation in the kingdom last week.
“Lebanon does not accept its prime minister being in a situation at odds with international treaties and the standard rules in relations between states,” he said.
He added that a marathon planned in Beirut on Sunday in which tens of thousands are expected to participate should be “a national sports demonstration for solidarity with Prime Minister Hariri and his return to his country.”
Meanwhile, the Arabic-language al-Joumhouria (The Republic) daily newspaper quoted Aoun as saying on Saturday that Beirut would refer Hariri’s case to the UN Security Council within a week if his destiny remains unclear.
Separately on Saturday, Aoun talked on the phone with the French president, during which Emmanuel Macron expressed his country’s commitment to Lebanon’s “unity, sovereignty and independence.”
Also in a statement on Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Washington called upon “all states and parties to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, and constitutional processes.”
Hariri announced his resignation on November 4, citing several reasons, including the security situation in Lebanon, for his sudden decision. He also said that he realized a plot being hatched against his life.
Hariri also accused Iran and the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, of meddling in the Arab countries’ affairs; an allegation the two have rejected.
The Lebanese prime minister announced his resignation following visits to Saudi Arabia.
The resignation also comes less than a month after he announced plans to join a coalition government with Hezbollah.
Iran said Hariri’s resignation and rehashing of the “unfounded and baseless” allegations regularly leveled by Zionists, Saudis and the US were another scenario aimed at creating new tensions in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Many authorities in Lebanon have insisted on the return of Hariri from Saudi Arabia. Several sources believe that Saudi Arabia is holding Hariri against his will, a claim the kingdom has rejected.