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Lebanon's Hizballah accuses Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage

Head of Lebanon's Hizballah movement Hassan Nasrallah said Hariri is being detained by Saudi [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 November, 2017

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Chief of Lebanon's Hizballah movement Hassan Nasrallah has accused of Saudi Arabia of detaining Saad Hariri since his resignation, and asking Israel to launch strikes on Lebanon.

Lebanon's powerful Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday accused Saudi Arabia of detaining Saad Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on Saturday.

"The head of the Lebanese government is detained in Saudi Arabia, he is banned from returning to Lebanon until now," Nasrallah said in a televised address, his first since Hariri resigned last week from the premiership in a statement made from Riyadh.

Nasrallah also accused Saudi Arabia of asking his archfoe Israel to launch strikes on Lebanon.

"The most dangerous thing is inciting Israel to strike Lebanon," Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address.

"I'm talking about information that Saudi Arabia has asked Israel to strike Lebanon."

Hariri's situation was not completely clear but calls, including from his Lebanese political rivals, mounted for Saudi Arabia to guarantee the prime minister's freedom of movement.

The 47-year-old announced his resignation on November 4 in a surprise move that coincided with a sweeping purge in the Saudi kingdom's elite, ostensibly over embezzlement accusations.

Hariri, who was born in Saudi Arabia, did not say when he would return to Lebanon, where President Michel Aoun has yet to formally accept his resignation.

In a statement issued on Friday after a meeting with the Saudi envoy to Lebanon, Aoun insisted Hariri should return to Lebanon but did not elaborate on the premier's current situation in Riyadh.

"President Aoun met Saudi charge d'affaires Walid Bukhari and informed him that the circumstances in which Mr Hariri's resignation took place were unacceptable," the statement said.

The president "called for the return to Lebanon of the head of the government".

Aoun, whose political ally Hizballah is a fierce critic of Saudi Arabia, also "voiced his concern over what is being said" about Hariri's current status in Saudi Arabia and demanded a "clarification".

Nasrallah, whose party is the only organisation that did not disarm after the 1975-1990 civil war and now has an arsenal that outstrips Lebanon's own armed forces, accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to incite conflict.

Lebanon a venue for proxy conflicts

Lebanon has become increasingly embroiled in the regional rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran, prompting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to step in on Friday and urge all parties not to use the country to settle their differences.

"The United States cautions against any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country," Tillerson said.

International concern over Lebanon also sparked a warning from the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that a new regional conflict must be averted.

"It is essential that no new conflict erupt in the region," Guterres told reporters. "It would have devastating consequences."

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