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'Detained Hariri' flown to Abu Dhabi to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed

The impression in Beirut is that Prime Minister Hariri is being held hostage [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 November, 2017

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Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is reportedly being held under house arrest, is heading to Abu Dhabi to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned last week in mysterious circumstances amid an all-encompassing purge in Saudi Arabia, is being held under house arrest, a Lebanese daily has claimed.

As soon as Hariri, who is a Saudi citizen, arrived in Riyadh after being 'summoned' there, he was placed under house arrest at a villa inside the Ritz Carlton compound, pro-Hizballah daily Al-Akhbar claimed in a Tuesday report.

A statement from Hariri's office on Tuesday said he is heading to Abu Dhabi to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

But the news has done little to reassure the Lebanese about the fate of their beleaguered prime minister, whose shock departure has triggered major concerns for the future of the small nation.

Co-architect of the war in Yemen and the current blockade of Qatar, Bin Zayed is a close ally of the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a key figure in the coup against his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef .

The meeting with Hariri could be meant to enlist him in the two crown princes' push for a confrontation with Iran and Hizballah, rather than a sign Hariri is free to leave, in light of Al-Akhbar's report.
As soon as Hariri, who is a Saudi citizen, arrived in Riyadh after being 'summoned' there, he was placed under house arrest at a villa inside the Ritz Carlton compound
Down at the Ritz

The Ritz Carlton is reportedly the place where Saudi authorities are detaining dozens of princes, businessmen and officials on corruption allegations.

Critics say the real reason behind their detention is the threat they pose to Mohammed bin Salman's power grab.

After placing him under house arrest in the hotel's compound, phones in possession of Hariri and his security were summarily seized upon their detention, Al-Akhbar's report claimed.

The newspaper cited high-level sources close to the outgoing prime minister, whose closest advisers were caught off guard by the saga.

Al-Akhbar, quoting the same sources, further claimed that Hariri's wife and children are being held separately in Riyadh, and could be used as a "bargaining chip" even if he were allowed to return to Lebanon.

The prime minister and his bodyguards who chose to remain in Riyadh are allowed limited communication with outside parties under the supervision of Saudi intelligence, according to the report.

Hariri, a protege of Riyadh, on Saturday announced his surprise resignation in a broadcast from the Saudi capital.

He cited the "grip" of the Iran-backed Shia movement Hizballah on Lebanon, and also said he feared for his life. Hariri also accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs.

But in a series of tweets on Sunday, notorious Saudi whistle-blower Mujtahidd claimed Hariri was being held captive by Saudi authorities to extort him financially.

Al-Akhbar's Tuesday report corroborated Mujahidd's claims, saying Hariri's resignation letter was drafted by Thamer Sabhan, a key figure in the current intrigue in Riyadh. Hariri was allowed to revise the draft twice before he read it in a recorded message, claimed the newspaper.
The resignation has thrown Lebanon's fragile government into disarray
Fear and loathing in Beirut

The resignation has thrown Lebanon's fragile government into disarray. President Michel Aoun said he would not accept the resignation until it has been delivered to him in person.

Born in Saudi Arabia, Hariri was running the family's vast Oger construction firm in the kingdom when his father was assassinated in February 2005.

At his family's urging, he returned to Beirut to enter politics, playing a key role in mass demonstrations that ended with the departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon after a 30-year presence.

Hariri then headed an anti-Syrian bloc to victory in 2005 legislative elections.

According to Al-Akhbar, Hariri could be dragged into the corruption investigations as a Saudi citizen, especially over allegedly receiving commissions in relation to Saudi weapons deals with the now-detained Khalid Tuwaijri, and previous unfulfilled government contracts with Oger.

Over the last days, thousands of social media users from Lebanon grew concerned, after rumours circulating suggested Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was being held against his will in Riyadh.

Social media users began tweeting under the Arabic hashtag for #FreeSaadHariri after a campaign was launched on FreeSaadHariri.com.

As well as local Lebanese media, rumours of Hariri’s abduction were reiterated and carried by Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah during a speech addressing the resignation on Sunday, in which he described the move as Saudi imposed and questioned whether Hariri was “a free man” in Riyadh.

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