Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Lebanon marathon runners race in solidarity for Hariri

Saad al Hariri in Riyadh Lebanon marathon runners race in solidarity for Hariri
Melissa Porter | 13 November, 2017, 19:02

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said on Sunday that he believed Hariri was being held against his will with his movements restricted within the Saudi Capital. When asked about reports that he is not communicative and doesn't use his phone much, he said: "I am in a reflective state", adding that he didn't want any distractions amid a very busy schedule.

He accused Iran and the Lebanese Resistance Movement Hezbollah of meddling in Arab countries' affairs, an allegation the two have repeatedly denied.

The country's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned in a speech from Saudi Arabia last Saturday and has yet to return to the country, sparking a political crisis, Reuters reported.

It came after the young Saudi Prince and heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, swept away rivals in an anti-corruption Game of Thrones-style purge.

"When Hariri's plane landed in Riyadh [on his subseqent visit on the weekend of 4 November], he got the message immediately that something was wrong", a Hariri source told Reuters.

The race turned into a political rally, with numerous runners calling for the return of Hariri, who has not publicly spoken since unexpectedly announcing his resignation. Though Mr Hariri and Hizbollah had always been political rivals and at times bitter enemies, Mr Hariri managed to walk a fine line between appeasing both the group and the demands of Saudi Arabia, his own foreign patron.

He said he made a decision to resign to save the country from imminent danger, but did not elaborate.

"They are instead a result of the ambiguous and obscure conditions [under which] PM Hariri is living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

Steps leading to the current crisis began last Saturday, when the Saudis accused Iran and Hezbollah of carrying out an "act of war" with a missile they said was sacked at Riyadh by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen. But sources close to the Lebanese leader said his forced resignation was motivated by Saudi efforts to counter Iran. "Saudi Arabia is ready to pay tens of billions of dollars to Israel for that", he said.

Mr Hariri also defended his resignation.

Many analysts see that as an attempt to consolidate power by the relatively new Crown Prince.

Last month, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani boasted of Iran's growing influence in the region, a comment that angered Mr Hariri as well as Saudi Arabia. His father, a long-serving former prime minister, was killed by a bomb in 2005.

"We know now through Israeli media that the 2006 war on Lebanon was prolonged by Saudi when Israel wanted it to end".