France suggests Hariri not free, urges he play role in Lebanon

France suggests Hariri not free, urges he play role in Lebanon

France suggests Hariri not free, urges he play role in Lebanon

The Lebanon president sought to smooth his inquiries with soft language, including reminding Riyadh of a "deep brotherly and friendly relations" between the two countries.

But Lebanese officials fear that during that meeting, Harari failed to take a hard enough stance against Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist group hated by Saudi Arabia - and included in Lebanon's coalition government. Hariri's resignation is being widely seen as part of a Saudi attempt to counter Iran as its influence deepens in Syria and Iraq and as Riyadh and its allies battle Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Representatives of the Lebanese government have demanded that Hariri be returned from Saudi Arabia as rumors that he has been arrested continue to circulate.

He has not returned to Lebanon since - despite the calls of Lebanese politicians and global observers who suspect that Saudi may be holding him under duress.

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In his resignation speech, Hariri said he feared assassination and accused Iran and Hezbollah of sowing strife in the region.

"I am free", Hariri told the interviewer, apparently seeking to show he was not being detained by the Saudis. His father Rafic Hariri, who was also a prime minister, was assassinated in 2005. His family lives in Riyadh.

Hezbollah has expanded its political role in the complex Lebanese coalition during Hariri's 11 months in office. When asked about reports that he is not communicative and doesn't use his phone much, he said: "I am in a reflective state", adding that he didn't want any distractions amid a very busy schedule.

Lebanon President Michel Aoun said before the interview that the "mysterious circumstances for Hariri's stay in the Saudi capital of Riyadh makes all his positions questionable and in doubt and not of his own volition".

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Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has made a public address accusing Saudi Arabia of detaining Mr Hariri against his will.

Spectators along the marathon course wore hats and held signs reading "Running for you" and "Waiting for you". We want him to first come to Lebanon.

"We can not say that we apply disassociation and at the same time see a group interfering in Yemen, or be dragged to relations with the Syrian regime, which I will not do". All Lebanese, from all sects, are missing their leader. Western countries are looking on with alarm at the rising regional tension. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk tweeted that those acts did not reflect the "true feelings" of the people of Tripoli or Lebanon, and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

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