Beirut: The leader of Hezbollah on Friday accused Saudi Arabia of holding Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri captive in Riyadh.
Hariri announced his resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia on November 4, prompting some in Lebanon to assert that the Saudis had forced Hariri to step down.
“The Prime Minister is detained in Saudi Arabia and is forbidden to return to Lebanon,” Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech, Efe reported.
In announcing his resignation, Hariri denounced an alleged plot to assassinate him. The Prime Minister, a Sunni Muslim, also criticized Shiite-majority Iran for interference in Lebanese political affairs.
Hariri’s critique of Iran is connected to Tehran’s support of Hezbollah.
Nasrallah, however, insisted that Hariri, who has dual Lebanese-Saudi citizenship, was forced to resign by Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia is ruled by adherents of the Wahhabi fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam and Riyadh views both Iran and Hezbollah as religious apostates and political adversaries.
“Saudi insulted all the Lebanese by forcing PM Hariri to read a resignation statement written by the Saudis, detaining him, and preventing him from returning to Lebanon,” the leader of Hezbollah said.
Nasrallah said that Hariri must return and declare his real position on Lebanese soil.
Hariri’s party, the Future Movement, suggested in a statement that the prime minister was not operating under his own free will and also called for him to come back to Lebanon, insisting that his return was “necessary to restore dignity and respect to Lebanon.”
Hariri’s resignation has not yet been accepted by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, who said he awaits Hariri’s return to Lebanon to learn the reasons behind the resignation.
“Finalizing the resignation is put on hold until the return of PM Hariri and until the real reasons for his decision are revealed,” Aoun said during a meeting with the ambassadors of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISGL).
Comprising the United Nations, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and the Arab League, the ISGL was created in September 2013.
Lebanon’s three main sectarian groups: Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, have tried to maintain a delicate power-sharing arrangement since achieving independence from France in 1943.
Under the terms of the so-called National Pact adopted then, a Maronite Christian is supposed to be the country’s president, a Sunni Muslim holds the post of prime minister and a Shiite Muslim serves as speaker of parliament.
There have been times in recent history, such as the 1975-1990 civil war, when this division of power has been unable to stem the tide of sectarian violence in Lebanon.