Hariri claimed that he would return to Lebanon “very soon,” and might withdraw his resignation if Hezbollah respects Lebanon’s policy of staying out of regional conflicts.
On November 4th in Riyadh, Hariri resigned, allegedly due to Iranian influence in Lebanon, and fear for his life. In a television interview, he said the decision was his alone, and that his goal was to cause “a positive shock” to draw Lebanon’s attention to the dangers it was facing.
Hariri said that King Salman of Saudi Arabia treated him as his own son, and that he had the greatest respect for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In the interview, broadcast from Riyadh, he said the stability of Lebanon was important for both the king and the crown prince, and that more than any other country, Saudi Arabia had helped Lebanon after the 2006 war with Israel.
“Lebanon is a small country and it needs to be nonaligned, and Saudi Arabia always demands the best for Lebanon and stresses the importance of distancing itself. What would happen to 400,000 Lebanese in the Gulf if we join an axis?” he said.
“Iran must stop meddling in the affairs of Arab countries and we refuse to be taken by Iran to an axis against Arab countries. I will not be drawn to building relations with the Syrian regime, which does not want me. Things have to be straightened out to keep Lebanon away from regional conflicts.”
When he agreed to a political settlement for a consensus government with Hezbollah ministers, Hariri lost popularity with the Lebanese people, “but the others did not live up to their commitment. I can’t be the only one making concessions while the others do whatever they want.”
According to Hariri, he visited the UAE last week to explain to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, his position and the need to protect Lebanon. He described their meeting as “brotherly and positive.’’
He denied any connection with the anti-corruption investigation launched in Saudi Arabia last week. “I wish we could fight corruption in Lebanon like Saudi Arabia is doing, but fighting corruption in Saudi Arabia is an internal affair that we have nothing to do with. I have not been subjected to any questioning in the context of the campaign in Saudi Arabia.”
Hariri said that he was still free to return to Lebanon. His fears of being assassinated like father, Rafiq Hariri, are genuine, but he says, “I am free to travel tomorrow if I want to. I will be back in Lebanon in a few days,” and adds, “I don’t care about my life — what matters to me is that Lebanon stays safe.”