Saudi Arabia denies Macron's charge it held Lebanese PM captive

Reuters , Tuesday 29 May 2018

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron and Saad al-Hariri react on the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 18, 2017. REUTERS

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry denied French President Emmanuel Macron's assertion that the kingdom held Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri captive last November, official Saudi media reported on Tuesday.

In an interview with broadcaster BFM TV last week, Macron claimed credit for heading off war in Lebanon, which was plunged into crisis after Hariri resigned while in Saudi Arabia, saying he feared assassination and criticising the Saudis' regional rival Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Sources close to Hariri have said Saudi Arabia had concluded that the prime minister, a long-time Saudi ally, had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah.

After international intervention, including by Macron, Hariri was able to leave the kingdom and eventually rescinded his resignation.

Lebanese officials accused the Saudis at the time of holding Hariri hostage. Riyadh, like Hariri, denied he was ever held against his will.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday called Macron's comments "untrue" and said the kingdom would continue to support Lebanon's stability and security.

"All the evidence confirms that what is pulling Lebanon and the region towards instability is Iran and its tools like the Hezbollah terrorist militia..." the statement said.

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