Riyadh: A French official says that Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri has told foreign ambassadors that he is not a prisoner in Saudi Arabia, where he has been holed up since an unusual resignation announcement.
An official in French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said on Friday that the French and US ambassadors in Saudi Arabia met with Hariri, and that Hariri “says he is not a prisoner, the (Saudi crown) prince says he is not a prisoner.”
Macron paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia on Thursday night and met with the crown prince, notably about rising tensions in Lebanon, a former French protectorate.
The official said Hariri did not ask to see Macron during the visit and that French officials “don’t have any specific signs” that the Lebanese prime minister’s life is in danger.
Two top Lebanese government officials told Reuters on Thursday that they believed Saudi Arabia was holding Hariri, an allegation Al Jubeir flatly denied in media interviews.
On Thursday, in a televised statement indicating deep concern at Hariri’s situation, his Future Movement political party said his return home was necessary to uphold the Lebanese system, describing him as prime minister and a national leader.
Meanwhile, the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon appealed for Lebanon to “continue to be shielded from tensions in the region”, a joint statement said on Friday.
Following a meeting of ISG members with Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Friday, the group, whose members include the United States, Russia and France, stressed the importance of restoring “vital balance” of state institutions in Lebanon, and welcomed “the call of the president for Hariri to return to Lebanon”, the statement said.
Top Lebanese Druze politician Walid Junblatt tweeted on Friday: “be it forced or voluntary it is time for Shaikh Sa’ad to return”.