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Lebanon’s Hariri travels to UAE after resigning as PM in Riyadh

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has reportedly left Saudi Arabia, where he announced his surprise resignation last week, for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to hold talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Hariri left Riyadh for Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, according to a report by Future TV, which is owned by the senior Lebanese politician.

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya television also confirmed the report, saying that Hariri had met with the Emirati crown prince, without further elaboration.

Hariri announced his resignation in a televised statement from Riyadh, citing many reasons, including the security situation in Lebanon, for his sudden decision. He also said that he sensed a plot being hatched against his life.

Hariri accused Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement of meddling in Arab countries’ affairs; an allegation the two have repeatedly denied.

The surprise announcement has sparked a new political crisis at home in Lebanon, fueling speculations that the PM had been forced by the Riyadh regime into stepping down.

A picture shows a front page of a newspaper featuring Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri following his resignation, on November 6, 2017, in the capital Beirut. (By AFP)

Lebanese Justice Minister Salim Jreissati said Tuesday that Hariri should return to the country and his resignation should be “voluntary” to be formally considered by President Aoun.

A few hours after the announcement of Hariri’s resignation in Saudi Arabia, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi vehemently rejected his remarks and said his resignation and rehashing of the “unfounded and baseless” allegations regularly leveled by the Zionists, Saudis and the US were another scenario to create new tensions in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, also said the country’s prime minister had been under pressure to resign his post.

Nasrallah noted that the announcement of Hariri’s resignation came after a number of visits to Saudi Arabia, adding that the text and style of his resignation clearly showed that it was not his own text and was a Saudi text dictated to the Lebanese prime minister.

Hariri, a close Riyadh ally, became prime minister of Lebanon in November last year after reaching a deal with other factions.

That power-sharing deal saw Aoun become president and ended a long power vacuum in the country.

Back then, observers described Aoun’s rise to power as a political victory for Hezbollah, which would gradually diminish the Saudi influence in Lebanon’s political arena. Riyadh had been vigorously lobbying to prevent Lebanon’s presidency from being placed in the hands of Hezbollah’s allies.

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