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The Latest: Hariri says Saudi wants Lebanon 'neutral'

November 12, 2017 - 11:26 AM

BEIRUT - The Latest on the political crisis in Lebanon (all times local):

9:20 p.m.

Lebanon's prime minster says Saudi Arabia, his ally, wants Lebanon to stay clear of regional conflicts, and not to side with Iran.

Saad Hariri said in a live interview Sunday from Saudi Arabia that withdrawing his resignation is conditional on Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah committing to remaining neutral on regional conflicts. Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to Syria, Lebanon's neighbour, to support the forces of Syria's President Bashar Assad. The interview aired on Future TV, Hariri's own station, and was broadcast live from Saudi Arabia.

Hariri said the unity government he formed a year ago was supposed to stick to an agreement not to interfere in regional affairs. He said Hezbollah has not kept up its end of the deal. "We are in the eye of the storm," he said.

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9:05 p.m.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri says his resignation was his decision, dismissing reports he was forced to quit a unity government with his rival Hezbollah militant group.

Speaking Sunday in a live interview to his station Future TV, Hariri held back tears. He said his resignation was designed to "cause a positive shock" in the country, warning against Iranian interference that is, he said, ruining relations with other Arab countries.

Hariri said he "can't be the only one making concessions while the others do whatever they want."

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9 p.m.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri says he will return to his country "very soon" in his first televised interview since he resigned in Saudi Arabia last week.

Hariri is speaking Sunday in a live interview to his station Future TV, after pressure from Lebanese officials who said his resignation is not accepted because it was declared in Saudi Arabia. Lebanon's president said Hariri is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia.

"I am free," he told the TV interviewer. He said he decided to resign to save the country from imminent danger. He didn't elaborate. Hariri said he will return to Lebanon "very soon," ''in days."

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1 p.m.

Thousands of Lebanese taking part in the country's annual marathon used the event to call on Prime Minister Saad Hariri to return home after he resigned under mysterious circumstances during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Hariri was a regular participant in the marathon, giving the international sports event a big boost. This year, President Michel Aoun encouraged runners to call on Hariri to return. Many Lebanese suspect he was placed under house arrest as part of a Saudi plan to unravel a coalition government he had formed with Hezbollah last year.

A dual Lebanese-Saudi national and an ally of Riyadh, Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation on Nov. 4 in a pre-recorded message broadcast on Saudi TV, criticizing Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, and saying he feared for his safety. His father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005. His family lives in Riyadh.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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