Hariri says he will return to Lebanon soon, leaves doubt about resignation

Hariri says he will return to Lebanon soon, leaves doubt about resignation

In announcing his decision on television, Hariri said he feared assassination and accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world, thrusting Lebanon into the front line of the competition between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran.

Hariri's resignation has provoked worldwide fears that Lebanon could be sucked into a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran.

In 2006, Israel imposed a blockade on Lebanon from July 12 till August 14, for a total of 34 days, because of the missile attack launched by Hezbollah on the Israeli border towns in an attempt to release the Hezbollah prisoners.

Top Lebanese government officials and senior sources close to Hariri believe Saudi Arabia coerced Hariri into resigning and has put him under effective house arrest since he flew to Saudi Arabia over a week ago.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up its rhetoric against Hezbollah and Iran, accusing both of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen.

"To reach a political solution in Lebanon, all political figures must have complete freedom of movement", he told reporters when asked about Hariri.

The resignation also comes less than a month after he announced plans to join a coalition government with Hezbollah.

Saudi authorities have yet to comment on Nasrallah's assertions. Hariri's family lives in Riyadh.

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He also repeatedly said he was ready to die for Lebanon - his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a vehicle bomb in Beirut in 2005 - but added that he didn't want his children to go through that kind of ordeal.

Former and current US officials with deep knowledge of Saudi Arabia say Trump's enthusiastic support for Prince Mohammed has emboldened the youthful Saudi leader.

Earlier Sunday, thousands of people attending Lebanon's annual marathon used the event to urge Hariri to return home.

Hariri was appointed prime minister late a year ago.

Spectators along the marathon course wore hats and held signs reading "Running for you" and "Waiting for you".

"We will carry these concerns to the king and crown prince and wish well", he said.

Joanne Hamza, a physical education teacher who wore a cap with a picture of Hariri on it, said he was missed at the race. "This is somehow reassuring but we still want him with us".

Next to Saad Hariri was a photograph of the man they alleged to be his captor: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 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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