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Lebanon president says Hariri's government remains in place

13 November 2017

But Riyadh says Hariri is a free man and he chose to resign because Hezbollah was calling the shots in his government.

French officials said the ministry's latest comments were the most accurate.

Thousands of runners in Lebanon's annual marathon have expressed solidarity with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned last week in a televised speech from the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Cast as part of a domestic anti-corruption drive, the arrests also left Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in undisputed control of Saudi security services.

It also accused Lebanon and Hezbollah of declaring war on the Gulf Arab Kingdom on Monday.

"When Hariri's plane landed in Riyadh [on his subseqent visit on the weekend of 4 November], he got the message immediately that something was wrong", a Hariri source told Reuters.

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Cardinal Bechara el-Rai had planned his visit before Saad Hariri announced his resignation in Riyadh on November 4, throwing Lebanon into crisis after he accused Iran of meddling in his country in a vicious tirade that was uncharacteristic of the usually soft-spoken politician.

He holds dual Saudi citizenship and is backed by Saudi Arabia in the Lebanese government.

"I am freely in the kingdom, and if I want to travel tomorrow, I will travel", Hariri said of his presence in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia say it is trying to protect him from an assassination plot.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up its rhetoric against Hezbollah and its patron, Iran, accusing both of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen known as Houthis. But sources close to the Lebanese leader said his forced resignation was motivated by Saudi efforts to counter Iran.

The fragile power-sharing arrangement reflects the historic rivalry between Sunni power Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, which are already fighting on opposing sides in Yemen and Syria.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday described Hariri as "a strong partner" and warned against "any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country".

Mr Hariri also defended his resignation.

Last month, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani boasted of Iran's growing influence in the region, a comment that angered Mr Hariri as well as Saudi Arabia.

In Beirut people are anxious about an escalation, but are holding demonstrations in support of Mr Hariri, who many insist remains the Prime Minister.

"We know now through Israeli media that the 2006 war on Lebanon was prolonged by Saudi when Israel wanted it to end".

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Lebanon president says Hariri's government remains in place