Lebanese Justice Minister Salim Jreissati says Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister from Saudi Arabia on Saturday, should return to the country and his resignation should be “voluntary” to be formally considered by President Michel Aoun.
Hariri reached an agreement with political factions in Lebanon in 2016 to become prime minister. But he said he was stepping down in an abrupt announcement broadcast from Riyadh on Saturday, in what has been widely seen as a move taken under Saudi pressure.
After a meeting of high-level officials chaired by President Aoun, Jreissati said on Monday that Hariri’s resignation “must be voluntary in every sense,” signaling that the Lebanese government regards the sudden move as involuntary.
Jreissati said the president would not be taking any action regarding Hariri’s resignation until he returned.
“The president is waiting for Hariri’s return to hear from him personally. This indicates a sovereign vision… and that the resignation must be voluntary in every sense,” the Lebanese justice minister said.
He also said Aoun had said that Lebanon’s stability was a “red line” and had to be preserved.
Speaking in a televised address from Saudi Arabia, Hariri said he feared for his life, and accused Iran and the Hezbollah resistance movement of interfering in the affairs of Arab countries. Iran and Hezbollah both reject the accusations.
The Lebanese army also said on Sunday that no assassination plot had been uncovered in Lebanon.
Hariri had already made two visits to Saudi Arabia, which has taken a hostile approach toward Iran and Hezbollah. Iranian military advisors and Hezbollah fighters have been successfully helping the Syrian government fight a foreign-backed militancy in Syria. Saudi Arabia supports many of the extremist militant groups fighting Damascus and opposes President Bashar al-Assad’s elected government.
Hariri’s resignation is also largely seen as an attempt by Saudi Arabia to undermine Hezbollah.
The Lebanese president last Monday stressed Iran’s significant role as a “regional power” in the Middle East and defended Hezbollah’s possession of arms.
Michel Aoun says Iran is a regional power and part of the solution to the region’s crises.
On Sunday, Hezbollah’s secretary general also said that Hariri’s resignation had not been voluntary. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah noted that the real reason for Hariri’s resignation had to be sought in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported on Monday that Saudi King Salman had met with Hariri. It did not provide details.
Saudi minister rejoices over Hariri’s resignation
A Saudi minister, Thamer al-Sabhan, has made upbeat remarks about Hariri’s resignation, saying Lebanon “will never be the same” after his resignation.
“Lebanon, after the resignation, will never be as it was before. We will not allow it — in any form — to be a platform for terrorism against our countries and it’s in the hands of its leaders to allow for a state of terrorism or peace,” Sabhan reportedly tweeted on Monday.
Sabhan had been assigned as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Iraq before Baghdad asked Riyadh to change him because he was interfering in Iraqi domestic affairs. Sabhan was then named the Saudi minister of state for Persian Gulf affairs.