UPDATED: Resigned Lebanon PM says free to move in Saudi, to return home 'soon'

AFP , Sunday 12 Nov 2017

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned, is seen during Future television interview, in a coffee shop in Beirut, Lebanon November 12, 2017 Reuters

Saad Hariri, whose resignation as Lebanon's prime minister a week ago sent shockwaves across the region, said Sunday he is "free" in Saudi Arabia and will return to Lebanon "very soon".

In an interview from Riyadh with his party's Future TV, Hariri brushed aside rumours that he was under de facto house arrest in the kingdom, from which he announced his surprise departure on November 4.

In his first public comments since then, he said he was free to travel.

"I am free here. If I want to travel tomorrow, I will," Hariri said.

"I will return to Lebanon very soon," Hariri said, adding later that he would land in Beirut "in two or three days".

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has yet to formally accept Hariri's resignation and has said Hariri has been "restricted" in his movements.

Hariri, who also holds Saudi citizenship, told journalist Paula Yaacoubian on Sunday that he would "return to Lebanon very soon to initiate the necessary constitutional procedures".

"Yes, it would have been better that I come to Lebanon (to resign) but there was danger," he said.

"I wrote (my resignation) with my own hand. I wanted to create a positive shock, not a negative one."

Wearing a suit and tie and with a Lebanese flag in the background, Hariri looked tired and spoke softly but firmly throughout the interview.

Hariri has spent the past week in a string of meetings with diplomats and Saudi officials in Riyadh, punctuated by a single trip to Abu Dhabi.

On Saturday, he attended a reception ceremony for Saudi King Salman who had arrived in Riyadh from the holy city of Medina, and also met with British and Turkish envoys to the kingdom.

In his interview on Sunday, he said he has "excellent" ties with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"Really, I consider him a brother and he considers me a brother. It's an excellent and special relationship," he said.

*The story edited by Ahram Online.

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