Press TV – Footage broadcast on the Saudi state television shows Saad Hariri, who has been in the kingdom since controversially resigning there as Lebanon’s prime minister, waiting in a queue to salute the monarch.
The video aired on Saturday showed officials taking turns to bow and kiss King Salman’s hand after his return from Medina. Hariri was standing in line and leaned over to press his face to that of the king.
A seemingly stressed-out Hariri announced his resignation in Riyadh last Saturday, shortly after travelling to Saudi Arabia. The televised announcement saw Hariri reading out from a statement and at times looking beyond the camera as if at individuals watching over him.
Hariri’s government shares power with the Hezbollah resistance movement. During the resignation video, however, he accused Hezbollah and Iran of “interference” in the region.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said Hariri has been “kidnapped” by Saudi Arabia, and questioned why he has not been back yet.
Many regional and international players are not convinced either by the precipitate course of developments. The Islamic Republic has called the resignation a US-Saudi-Zionist plot to sow yet more unrest in the region.
‘Saudi unhappy with Hariri-Hezbollah ties’
On Saturday, Reuters quoted sources close to Hariri as saying that Saudi Arabia “has concluded that the prime minister had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah.”
Hezbollah enjoys significant military and political clout in Lebanon after helping the country fight off several Israeli wars and shattering Tel Aviv’s myth of invincibility in the eyes of many Arabs.
Hariri had traveled to Riyadh for meeting with various officials a few days before his fateful visit.
“What happened in those meetings, I believe, is that (Hariri) revealed his position on how to deal with Hezbollah in Lebanon: that confrontation would destabilize the country. I think they didn’t like what they heard,” said one of the sources.
“The Hariri sources say Hariri believed he had convinced Saudi officials of the need to maintain an entente with Hezbollah for the sake of Lebanon’s stability,” Reuters reported.
After Hariri stepped down, Riyadh asked its citizens to leave Lebanon and not travel to the country. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah then said the kingdom had called on Israel to attack Lebanon, which has already fought off several wars with Tel Aviv.
Caught off guard?
The Lebanese prime minister apparently did not have any notion of what was coming as he had told officials at home that he would be back.
The unnamed sources said soon after his plane touched down in Riyadh, Hariri sensed something was amiss, noting that he had not received a typical honorable reception featuring a line-up of Saudi princes or ministry officials, and had his phone taken away.
“There was no one waiting for him,” said a source close to the prime minister. “From the moment he arrived they (the Saudis) showed no respect for the man,” another senior Lebanese political source said.
Hariri was presented with his resignation speech to read on television, the source said, according to Reuters.
In his speech, he said the Arab world would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it.” One source said the tone was not characteristic of the Lebanese statesman.
Those contacting him since resignation have said he is apprehensive, reluctant to say anything beyond “I am fine,” and would only say “Inshallah (God willing)” if asked when he would be back.
The Lebanese official is in the Saudi capital with his wife and family. Observers say even if he returned to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia could still hold his family “hostage.”
Members of Hariri’s Future Movement party had planned demonstrations for Saturday afternoon to show their support for the premier, but the plans were later canceled.
Reports said no reason had been given for the cancellation, and cited a spokeswoman for Hariri as saying on Sunday that there were no indications as to when he would return to Lebanon.