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French FM says Lebanese politicians must be free to travel

French FM says Lebanese politicians must be free to travel”

France, Germany and the European Union on Monday called for an end to external interference in Lebanon, after the country's prime minister resigned unexpectedly, triggering rumours he was being held against his will in Saudi Arabia.

Hariri, who threw Lebanon into political crisis by reading out his resignation on November 4 from Riyadh, gave his first public remarks since then in an interview late on Sunday, saying he planned to return within days.

He has criticised the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is part of his coalition government, for sowing strife in the Arab world and said he could take his resignation back if the group agreed to stay out of regional conflicts.

His resignation came as tensions rise between Riyadh and Tehran, which back opposing sides in power struggles from Lebanon and Syria to Yemen.

These developments, he said, reveal the extent of Saudi's "misreading of the political landscape in Lebanon" - a country radically different from Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohmmed bin Salman can in fact do what he did with minimal domestic pushback less than 24 hours after Hariri's resignation: Round up roughly 200 of is potential political rivals and arrest them under an "anti-corruption" crackdown, freezing their assets, and preventing them from leaving the country.

"President Aoun expressed his pleasure at Hariri's announcement of his return to Lebanon soon", a source said. The visitors declined to be identified while discussing the closed-door conversations.

Hezbollah's allies in Iran said Hariri's remarks gave hope he would return to Lebanon.

In his resignation speech Hariri, whose father, also a former prime minister, was killed by a bomb in 2005, said he feared assassination.

"As the saying goes, when two elephants fight, it's the grass that gets hurt, so in the confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it seems like Lebanon is the grass", said Boroujerdi.

All politicians in Lebanon must be afforded the freedom to travel, the French foreign minister said on Monday. "To reach a political solution in Lebanon, all political figures must have complete freedom of movement", Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

A third source, a senior politician close to Saudi-allied Hariri, said Saudi Arabia had ordered him to resign and put him under house arrest.

"The Lebanon of today is different than what it was before the Syrian war".

Hariri's comments encouraged a recovery on Monday in Lebanese dollar bonds, which slumped last week.



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