The Latest: Again, Riyadh asks citizens to leave Lebanon

November 17, 2017
FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2017 file photo, released by Lebanon's official government photographer Dalati Nohra, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Hariri who resigned from Saudi Arabia nearly two weeks ago has been caught in the crossfire between the region’s two feuding powers -- Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. The 47-year-old who for years had tried to play a balancing act in Lebanon, with its delicate, sectarian-based political system, resigned in the most bizarre manner, throwing the country’s and his own political future into the unknown. (Dalati Nohra via AP, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments surrounding Lebanon’s crisis with Saudi Arabia in the wake of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation (all times local):

1:30 a.m.

Saudi Arabia has asked its citizens for the second time in less than two weeks to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible” given the tension over the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The announcement early Saturday was posted on the Saudi embassy Twitter account. It came shortly after the embassy reported that it is closely following reports of an attack on two Saudi nationals in a Beirut neighborhood. There was no immediate security report of the incident. Hariri tweeted before he left Saudi Arabia that any attack on a Saudi is an attack on him personally.

Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi national, stunned Lebanon and the region when he declared his resignation from Saudi Arabia, citing meddling by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Arab countries affairs.

Days later, Saudi Arabia ordered its citizens out of Lebanon on Nov. 9. It was the first concrete action against the Mediterranean country after days of leveling threats against Beirut.

Hariri’s resignation sparked speculations he was held against his will, and forced to resign. Hariri left to Paris early Saturday.


1 a.m.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri says he is on his way to the airport, leaving Saudi Arabia two weeks after he declared his resignation from there.

In his first English tweet, Hariri said early Saturday that it is “a lie” that he is detained in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country. Hariri is heading to Paris, after France extended an invitation, apparently to put an end to speculation Hariri was being held against his will.

Hariri resigned on Nov.4 in a televised announcement from Saudi Arabia that stunned the country and plunged it into turmoil. Top officials in Lebanon accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri against his will and forcing his resignation.

Hariri dedicated his tweet to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel warned against instability in Lebanon during a meeting with Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who has toured European countries to lobby for stability in his country. Without naming Saudi Arabia, Gabriel warned against those behind the crises in Lebanon and Yemen, according to reports from a joint press conference.


10:30 p.m.

President Emmanuel Macron says that France doesn’t want to choose one camp against another in the Middle East or become involved in “national or regional divisions.”

Macron spoke to reporters on Friday at an EU summit in Sweden and said that “the role of France is to talk to everyone.”

He spoke a day before a scheduled meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was invited to France with his family. Hariri’s surprise Nov. 4 resignation as prime minister from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, led to theories that Hariri was caught in regional power games between the Saudis, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Iran.

Macron wants to ease tensions, but he also said he wants Iran to lead a “less aggressive regional strategy” and its ballistic missile strategy “clarified.”

Iran-allied rebels in Yemen fired a ballistic missile that was intercepted outside the Saudi capital earlier this month.


8:15 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will be received with all honors due his rank when he visits this weekend — even though he announced his resignation — and could stay in Paris for weeks should he choose.

Hariri has been in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he announced his resignation on Nov. 4, stunning Lebanon and leading to theories he was caught in regional power games. Macron’s invitation this week to Hariri and his family aims at easing tensions.

Macron said at an EU summit in Goteborg, Sweden, that Hariri will be received on Saturday “with the honors due a prime minister” since Lebanon hasn’t yet recognized the resignation.

Significantly, Macron said that Hariri “has the intention, I believe, of going to his country in the days or weeks ahead” — the first time a possible timeframe was evoked.


4:30 p.m.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has dismissed reports about his alleged detention in Saudi Arabia as “rumors.”

Hariri said in a tweet on Friday that he has stayed in Saudi Arabia to consult about the future of Lebanon and its relations with the region.

He is expected to head to France this weekend upon a French invitation, which has appeared to end speculation about being held against his will.

Hariri also says “stories” about his and his family’s sojourn in Saudi Arabia are only “rumors.”

Hariri’s televised Nov. 4 resignation from Riyadh stunned the Lebanese, many of whom saw it as a sign that the kingdom — the prime minister’s chief ally — had decided to drag tiny Lebanon into the Sunni kingdom’s feud with the other regional powerhouse, the predominantly Shiite Iran.


3:30 p.m.

Russia has spoken out against foreign interference in Lebanese affairs following the surprise resignation of the Lebanese prime minister.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday at a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart, Gibran Bassil, that “Russia invariably stands for supporting the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Lebanon.”

He added that the crisis should be settled internally in Lebanon, without foreign interference, and through dialogue.

Bassil is visiting world capitals as part of a tour to clarify Lebanon’s position following Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation in a Nov. 4 broadcast from Saudi Arabia, which has thrown the small country into turmoil.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Hariri was seen by some as engineered by Riyadh, raising concerns that it could drag Lebanon into a battle for regional supremacy.

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