Lebanon President: Saudis Are Holding Our PM Hostage
It's Michel Aoun's strongest statement since Saad al-Hariri resigned
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2017 10:40 AM CST
Michel Aoun, president of Lebanon, addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on Sept. 21, 2017.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

(Newser) – Lebanon President Michel Aoun said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia is holding Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and his family hostage. It's the first time since al-Hariri's sudden resignation earlier this month that Aoun has explicitly accused Saudi Arabia of holding him, Reuters reports. Al-Hariri resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, went a week without making any sort of statement, then insisted Sunday he's not a hostage and would return to Lebanon soon. He still has not, and on Wednesday Aoun said he wouldn't accept al-Hariri's resignation until he's back in the country. "Nothing justifies Hariri's lack of return for 12 days. We therefore consider him detained," Aoun said. He says al-Hariri's family is searched whenever they enter or leave their house in Saudi Arabia, and that he has asked the international community for help with the situation.

Other Lebanese politicians close to al-Hariri, who holds Saudi nationality, have said Saudi Arabia coerced him into resigning as the country struggles with Iran for power in the Middle East; while Saudi Arabia is one of al-Hariri's biggest backers, Aoun is allied with Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is closely tied to Iran. On Sunday night, al-Hariri warned that Lebanon could be hit with economic sanctions. In response to Aoun's comments, he insisted on Twitter that he is "perfectly fine" and will return to Lebanon, but he also called Saudi Arabia his family's country. He has said he is in Saudi Arabia for protection, the BBC reports. Sources say al-Hariri's words have become more compromising in recent statements when compared with his original resignation statement attacking Iran and Hezbollah, and they attribute this to Western pressure on Saudi Arabia causing it to pull back a bit.

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