Lebanese cardinal arrives in Saudi Arabia to meet Hariri

A poster depicting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri who has resigned from his post is seen in Beirut

A poster depicting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri who has resigned from his post is seen in Beirut Credit Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is set to appear in an interview with his party's media outlet, Al-Mustaqbal TV on Sunday night, in a clear attempt by Saudi authorities to deny that the man is held captive by Riyadh.

Many Lebanese have suspected Hariri was placed under house arrest as part of a Saudi plan to unravel a coalition government he had formed a year ago with the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah.

A dual Lebanese-Saudi national, the Saudi-allied Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation on November 4 in a pre-recorded message on Saudi TV, criticizing Iran and Hezbollah, and saying he feared for his safety. He said he would return to Lebanon within two or three days.

Hariri said his resignation was intended as a "positive shock" to his country, which he saw in danger.

"We appeal first of all to the political forces to focus on Lebanon and what they can deliver to their citizens, Prime Minister Hariri to return to his country and the unity government.to focus on domestic achievements", the bloc's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, told reporters.

In a statement from his office, Aoun said "Hariri's freedom has been restricted and conditions have been imposed regarding his residence and the contacts he may have, even with members of his family".

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After a belligerent resignation speech on November 4, Hariri looked sad and exhausted on Sunday, at times holding back tears in the interview that went on for over an hour.

He added that a marathon planned in Beirut on Sunday in which tens of thousands are expected to participate should be "a national sports demonstration for solidarity with Prime Minister Hariri and his return to his country".

Lebanon President Michel Aoun said before the interview that the "mysterious circumstances for Hariri's stay in the Saudi capital of Riaydh makes all his positions questionable and in doubt and not of his own volition".

Saudi Arabia has stepped up its rhetoric against Hezbollah and Iran, accusing both of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen. When asked about reports that he is not communicative and doesn't use his phone much, he said: "I am in a reflective state", adding that he didn't want any distractions amid a very busy schedule.

"The Lebanese people have been waiting for him (Hariri) to return because the situation has come to a stop and the Lebanese people have been unsettled", el-Rai said. Several sources believe that Saudi Arabia is holding Hariri against his will, a claim the kingdom has rejected.

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