Lebanon's Maronite patriarch makes historic Saudi visit


Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese group that's backed by Iran, has men fighting in the wars in Iraq, in Syria and in Yemen. "We believe it is essential to avoid importing into Lebanon regional conflicts", she said after hosting a meeting of all 28 European Union foreign ministers in Brussels.

"In order to prevent this we need especially the return of the current prime minister, reconciliation in the country and the prevention of influence from outside", he said.

Lebanon's foreign minister on Monday expressed doubt about the circumstances behind Saad Hariri's sudden resignation as Prime Minister during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying he is waiting for the leader's return to learn "the truth". The prime minister has not returned to Lebanon since.

Hariri's resignation, which has yet to be endorsed by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, came amid tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"We are anxious about its stability, we are anxious about its integrity", Le Drian said.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad Salman will open the King Salman Centre for International Peace next year but the visit is likely to cause some controversy.

Hariri's interview on Sunday night, carried by Future TV, a channel associated with his political party, raised some new questions. He repeatedly drank water, finishing his glass and asking for more.

But later in the interview, he plotted a new twist: He said he may be tempted to stay in power after all.

Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi, asked whether Hariri is being detained, told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York: "That's preposterous".

While commending the Lebanese for "social solidarity" with refugees, almost all of whom are Syrian, the prelates said the refugees' presence - now more than half of Lebanon's existing population of about 4 million - "has become a burden and a threat to its structure, economy and population balance and to its political and security stability".

Bassil said Hariri "is free to do whatever he wants", but called for him to resign "on Lebanese territory".

Mohammad is equally controversial, following a political crackdown involving 11 princes and dozens of former government ministers in Saudi Arabia last week. He has friends and supporters and interests and so forth, first and foremost among them the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, whom Saad Hariri said he look up as a father figures. "He is always welcome there and he will continue to be welcome there".