Lebanon president says Saudi has 'detained' PM Hariri

Lebanon president says Saudi has 'detained' PM Hariri
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun on Wednesday said Saad Hariri's failure to return to his country amounted to his detention in Saudi Arabia, contrary to the Vienna Convention.
3 min read
15 November, 2017

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun on Wednesday accused Saudi Arabia of having "detained" Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation in a statement from the kingdom earlier this month.

"Nothing justifies the failure of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to return for 12 days, therefore we consider him to be held and detained, contrary to the Vienna Convention," Aoun said in a tweet on the official Lebanese presidency account.

He added that members of private security contractors Blackwater, founded by former US Navy SEAL and UAE-based Erik Prince, are guarding him, not Saudi authorities, without providing further information.

Speculation has swirled about the circumstances of Hariri's resignation since his surprise announcement on November 4 in a statement read on Saudi Arabia's Al-Arabiya television channel.

There have been rumours that the prime minister, who is a Saudi citizen and grew up in the kingdom, had been detained along with dozens of Saudis in what Riyadh says is an anti-corruption campaign.

Hours after Aoun's statement, Hariri took to Twitter in an apparent bid to quell rumours of his detention. 

Read more: What will Hariri's shock resignation mean for Lebanon?

"I want to repeat and confirm: I am totally, totally fine and I'll come back, God willing, to beloved Lebanon like I promised you all. You'll see," he wrote.

It was his second tweet in two days seeking to dispel concerns that he was being held against his will.

"Guys, I am perfectly fine, and God willing I will return in the coming days. Let's calm down," he said on Tuesday, in his first tweet in more than a week.

Hariri, who has long been close to Saudi authorities, insisted in an interview with his party's television channel over the weekend that he had freedom of movement and would return to Lebanon in the coming days.

But he has yet to show any sign of coming home, and statements from France and other countries have fuelled speculation that he is being held in Saudi Arabia.

Aoun has yet to officially accept Hariri's resignation, and has said he will not do so before meeting the premier in person in Lebanon.

"No decision can be made on a resignation from abroad," he reiterated in a tweet on the presidency's account on Wednesday.

"He should return to Lebanon to present his resignation or withdraw it, or to discuss the reasons for it and how to address them.

"We cannot extend this wait and lose time, we cannot stop state affairs." 

Aoun sought however to calm fears about Lebanon's stability in the face of the political crisis.

"Do not be afraid, whether economically, financially or in terms of security," he said. "The country is safe and the financial markets are functioning properly."

Agencies contributed to this report.