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Lebanese official: We want 'the truth' from Prime Minister Hariri

14 November 2017

"Things have to be straightened out to keep Lebanon away from regional conflicts".

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Sunday that he is a "free man" and will return to his country "within days".

If the interview was meant to end the rumors that Hariri is being coerced by Saudi Arabia, it didn't exactly work.

The Saudis deny that they forced Hariri to resign and say he came to Riyadh because of death threats he faced in Lebanon.

Bassil said Lebanon considers Saudi Arabia to be a "brotherly" country, as he appeared to try to ease any possible friction between the two countries from the incident.

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They said they valued the wisdom of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, "who has called for prudence and internal unity, and is still engaged in extensive consultations on this issue". 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 worldwide pressure on the Saudi government.

"I suspect that this [statement by Hariri that he might return] is kind of a more honorable exit for everyone concerned", she said.

MAHA YAHYA: Yeah, I think this kind of strong-arm tactics obviously caused a lot of alarm and it flies in the face of global norms.

Asked why Hariri was wearing the same suit for three days, he said: "I said I'm not responsible for his closet".

At the end of the November 6-10 session of the Catholic Council of the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon, the prelates said their pain "is the continuation of wars in the countries of the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen, which have shaken the stability and peace and caused the programmed demolition and the ravages and misfortunes of innocent citizens".

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"In order to prevent this we need especially the return of the current prime minister, reconciliation in the country and the prevention of influence from outside", he said.

SHERLOCK: This, he says, will depend on Hezbollah meeting certain demands.

It will be the first time a cardinal officially visits Saudi Arabia and the first visit of an Eastern patriarch to the kingdom since Greek Orthodox Patriarch Elias IV of Antioch in 1975.

But, the Carnegie Endowment's Yayha said, at least the door is open for negotiation now.

A country that once lived under French occupation, Lebanon has always been buffeted by the demands of greater foreign powers.

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Lebanese official: We want 'the truth' from Prime Minister Hariri