EU's Mogherini calls on Hariri to return to Lebanon

EU's Mogherini calls on Hariri to return to Lebanon

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said that a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday had voiced unanimous support for Lebanon's "unity and stability".

For eight days following his resignation on November 4, Hariri was seen but not heard.

The palace intrigue intensified.

Top Lebanese government officials and senior sources close to Hariri say Saudi Arabia coerced him into resigning and has put him under effective house arrest since he flew there more than a week ago. Reuters reported that the Lebanese prime minister's phone had been confiscated.

The comments came in Hariri's first TV interview since his resignation announcement, in which he lashed out harshly at Hezbollah and its patron Iran.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: On camera, Saad Al-Hariri looks nervous and drained. He was pale, with dark bags under his eyes. At some moments, he even seems on the verge of tears. Speaking to Bloomberg TV during a visit to London, Salameh stressed that the crisis in Lebanon is political and not monetary. The prime minister has not returned to Lebanon since.

But later in the interview, he plotted a new twist: He said he may be tempted to stay in power after all. This, Hariri said, would have to stop. He insisted Lebanon would remain neutral in these wars.

Hariri's emotional interview on Sunday was an attempt to end rumors he was being held against his will in the Saudi capital.

At least five Lebanese television channels reportedly refused to broadcast the interview, saying it still wasn't clear whether their prime minister could speak freely. Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, says Hariri's new suggestion, that he may remain prime minister, is likely the result of heavy global pressure on the Saudi government.

The European Union on Monday urged Saad al-Hariri to return to Lebanon, calling on all political forces inside the country to focus on the domestic agenda and warning Saudi Arabia against meddling.

Yahya said these statements likely had an impact.

MAHA YAHYA: Yeah, I think this kind of strong-arm tactics obviously caused a lot of alarm and it flies in the face of worldwide norms. "So I suspect that this was [to] kind of soften the entire situation".

Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi, asked whether Hariri is being detained, told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York: "That's preposterous".

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said there was a danger of Lebanon falling back into "political and sometimes military confrontations".

Hariri said: "Lebanon is a small country and it needs to be nonaligned, and Saudi Arabia always demands the best for Lebanon and stresses the importance of distancing itself". Hezbollah and the Houthis deny that the Lebanese group is carrying out anti-Saudi activities in Yemen.

The Sunni Muslim royal family has long vied with Iran's Shiite regime for influence in the region.

KSCIP now operates from Kuala Lumpur and the government aims to complete the construction in two years. "They (the Lebanese) will not rest until he returns so that life returns to normal".



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