European Union says Hariri must return to Lebanon, warns against Saudi interference


Hariri's shock resignation after less than a year as premier mystified Lebanon and led to speculation by some media outlets and politicians that he was forced into it by the Gulf kingdom.

When he resigned on November 4, he said he feared assassination.

He said his resignation was created to "cause a positive shock" in the country, warning against Iranian interference that is, he said, ruining relations with other Arab countries.

Cardinal Bechara el-Rai's visit, the first ever by a Maronite patriarch to the kingdom according to the cardinal, has taken on special significance since Hariri announced his resignation in a surprise statement broadcast from Riyadh on November 4. He has friends and supporters and interests and so forth, first and foremost among them the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, whom Saad Hariri said he look up as a father figures.

Asked by reporters about Iran's reaction to Saudi Arabia's possible provocative moves against Lebanon, Qassemi said, "We can not speak on the basis of assumptions".

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"Maybe there's a regional conflict between Arab countries and Iran".

He said withdrawing his resignation is conditional on Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy considered a terror group by Israel, committing to remaining neutral on regional conflicts. He also seemed to indicate he did not support Hezbollah becoming involved in a conflict against Israel.

Tillerson was "not going along with the Saudi position in describing the Lebanese state as under capture by Hezbollah", said Paul Salem, the senior vice president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank.

"I am not against Hezbollah as a party, I have a problem with Hezbollah destroying the country", Hariri said during the interview.

"We will carry these concerns to the king and crown prince and wish well", he said. He also accused Saudi Arabia and Israel of masterminding the Lebanese political crisis.

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The Saudi-led coalition hopes that will prevent "the smuggling of weapons, ammunition, missile parts and cash that are regularly being supplied by Iran and Iranian accomplices to the Houthi rebels", the statement said.

At times it was evident Hariri was holding back tears in the interview, which went on for over an hour.

"Really, I consider him a brother and he considers me a brother".

But he refused to comment on the internal political turmoil in Saudi Arabia, where dozens of high-profile politicians and businessmen have been arrested in what authorities say is an anti-graft drive. "It's an excellent and special relationship", he said.

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