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Lebanon says Saudis detaining former PM

Reuters BEIRUT (Reuters) — Lebanon believes Saad al-Hariri is being held in Saudi Arabia, from where he resigned as Lebanese prime minister, two top government officials in Beirut said, amid a deepening crisis pushing Lebanon onto the frontlines of a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

A third source, a senior politician close to Saudi-allied Hariri, said Saudi Arabia had ordered him to resign and put him under house arrest. A fourth source familiar with the situation said Saudi Arabia was controlling and limiting his movement.

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.

Hariri’s resignation last Saturday, read out on television from Saudi Arabia, came as a shock even to his aides and further embroiled Beirut in a regional contest between Riyadh and Tehran.

Hariri’s exit fueled wide speculation that the Sunni Muslim politician, long an ally of Riyadh, was coerced into stepping down by Saudi Arabia as it seeks to hit back against Iran and its Lebanese Shiite ally, Hizbollah.

Saudi Arabia has denied reports he is under house arrest.

But Hariri has issued no statements himself to that effect, and has not denied that his movements are being restricted.

France: Hariri free of movements

PARIS (Reuters) — France’s foreign minister said on Friday he believed that former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was not under house arrest in Saudi Arabia and did not have any particular constraints on his movements.

“As far as we know, yes. We think he is free of his movements and it’s important he makes his own choices,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.

France’s ambassador to Saudi met Hariri on Thursday before President Emmanuel Macron’s unscheduled visit to Riyadh to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, diplomats said. It was unclear whether Macron had any contact with Hariri during his stopover in the Saudi capital.Speech

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