Saudi Arabia orders its citizens to leave Lebanon

Saudi Arabia orders its citizens to leave Lebanon

Hariri, the son of slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, has maintained close ties with Riyadh, despite accusations that he has been too weak to cap Hezbollah's power and influence in Lebanon and beyond.

Practically, this resignation has put an end to an anomalous transaction that had brought on Michael Aoun - an ally of Iran and Syria - as president, and in exchange, Hariri had received unanimous approval to form a national unity government.

On Thursday, Reuters' Laila Bassam and Tom Perry reported that Lebanon believes Hariri is being held in Saudi Arabia.

But Hariri's fate seems a mystery.

Saudi Arabia's official news agency SPA quoted a source in the foreign ministry on Thursday as saying: "Due to the situations in the Republic of Lebanon, the official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Saudi nationals visiting or residing in Lebanon are asked to leave the country as soon as possible".

Saudi Arabia and members of Hariri's Future Movement have denied reports that he is under house arrest.

On the other hand, Hezbollah, which is represented by several ministers and affiliates in the Lebanese government, is known for its declared loyalty to Iran and for sending militants to fight side by side with the Iranian troops in favor of the Syrian forces of Shiite leader Bashar al-Assad, whose departure has always been a desire of Sunni-dominant Saudi Arabia.

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Hezbollah's Hussein Fadlallah said: "The Saudi regime is suffering today from an acute internal crisis".

French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would make a previously unscheduled trip to Saudi Arabia on Thursday to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and discuss "regional questions, in particular Yemen and Lebanon".

Saudi Arabia and Iran are in the throes of a proxy war. He has not returned to Lebanon since.

Hariri's critique of Iran is connected to Tehran's support of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. However, while Saudi Arabia is grappling with economic recession, it hopes to consolidate its power in the region with support from the US and Israel.

"We suspect that this reflects concerns that the Kingdom's increasingly aggressive tone towards Iran will stoke regional tensions that could ultimately morph into a military confrontation", Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

Hezbollah will not accept any government formation without its participation, he added.

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