By Wassim Seifeddine
Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s recently resigned prime minister, is being held against his will by Saudi Arabia, which isn’t allowing him to return to Lebanon, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said Friday.
Hariri’s abrupt resignation last week -- which he announced from Saudi Arabia -- was “illegitimate, unconstitutional, illegal and without value because it was done under duress”, Nasrallah said in televised comments on Friday.
Saudi Arabia, Nasrallah added, “believes it can impose a new prime minister on Lebanon”.
Contentiously, the Hezbollah chief went on to assert that he had information that Saudi Arabia had “asked Israel to strike Lebanon”.
The Saudi authorities, for their part, have yet to comment on Nasrallah’s assertions.
Last Saturday, Hariri abruptly announced his resignation from the Lebanese premiership in a televised address delivered from Riyadh. In his resignation address, he had criticized Iran and Hezbollah, accusing them of sowing “sedition” in the region and meddling in Arab affairs.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, however, has yet to formally accept Hariri’s resignation and has asked the former prime minister to return to Lebanon so that he might “clarify” the situation.
In earlier remarks, Nasrallah had said there was “no reason” for Hariri to step down, accusing Saudi Arabia of forcing him to resign.
On Monday, Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan dismissed the claims, describing them as "lies" disseminated by Hezbollah.
Hariri was appointed Lebanese prime minister late last year. Before Saturday’s resignation, he had led a 30-member government that included Hezbollah representatives.
Saudi Arabia, Hariri’s longtime backer, is Iran’s arch-foe in the region. While Riyadh supports Syria’s armed opposition, Iran and Hezbollah both support Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime.
Meanwhile, American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a written statement Friday that the United States strongly supports Lebanon’s independence.
The U.S.calls any party, within or outside Lebanon, to respect Lebanon’s territorial integrity and independence of armed elements of Lebanese state which are the legitimate security forces, the statement said.
Tillerson said he recognized Saad al-Hariri as Lebanon's prime minister and called him a "strong partner of the United States", it added.