For Aoun, Hariri's abduction represents Saudi aggression against Lebanon
Hariri's promise to return to Lebanon has not been kept. The abduction of the prime minister is an attack on the "independence and dignity" of the country. The Lebanese were disappointed that they did not see any member of Hariri’s family during his meeting with Patriarch al-Rahi. French representatives are on their way to Riyadh. Iranian President Rouhani attacks Saudi Arabia for asking Israel to "bomb the Lebanese people."
Beirut (AsiaNews) – For the first time in history, Lebanese President Michel Aoun has described Saudi Arabia as an aggressor against the "independence and dignity" of his country during a meeting last night with the National Media Council and the owners of the main Lebanese radio and television stations (picture 1).
This represents a strong signal of radical change in the relationship between the only democracy in the Arab Middle East and the only monarchy in the world that has given its name to the country.
"Nothing justifies the failure of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to return for 12 days; therefore, we consider him to be held and detained in Saudi Arabia, contrary to the Vienna Convention (on diplomatic immunity), and the Charter of Human Rights," Aoun said. This “is an act of aggression against Lebanon,” he added.
Yesterday, the whole country was disappointed that Hariri’s wife and children were not seen at the meeting with Cardinal Bechara al-Rahi, not even a single picture was released by Saudi sources. What little was reported was centred on the "traditional friendship between the two countries”.
In his statement, the Lebanese president told the country not to be afraid with respect to the economy or security. “The financial market is operating as it should and national unity is a safety valve."
On the prime minister’s resignation in the Saudi capital under ambiguous circumstances, Aoun said that that "resignation cannot be made abroad. He (Hariri) must return to Lebanon to resign or withdraw his resignation or look at the reasons for and ways to solve them. We cannot wait and lose time any longer. We cannot put state affairs on standby."
Aoun said that Lebanon will do whatever it takes to secure "the release of Prime Minister Hariri" and to maintain close contact with "Arab and Western countries for this purpose". He noted that "what is happening in Saudi Arabia about his [Hariri’s] abduction touches the dignity of the Lebanese people."
For the first time, Lebanon also linked the premier's fate to that of his family (his Syrian wife and three children) also held in Saudi Arabia, who are "searched when they leave or come back home,” said the Lebanese President’s Office.
After 12 days of silence, Hariri wrote on Twitter (picture 2): "I would like to repeat and reiterate that I am doing well, and, inshallah (God willing), I shall return to dear Lebanon as I promised. You shall see."
Two days ago, the prime minister had said that he would be in Beirut "in two days time", but reports this morning indicate that this will not happen since the French government announced a meeting next Thursday in Riyadh between Hariri and the French Foreign Minister, who is travelling to Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Saudi media have taken a more aggressive and disdainful tone towards Lebanon. The Saudi daily Ukaz wrote today: "May Baabda (Lebanon’s Presidential Palace) die with its anger," whilst al-Watan suggested that Lebanon’s president may not be Christian, but a soldier of Iran’s ‘Wilayat al-Faqih’ (governance of the Jurist) thus raising doubts about his "faith in Christ".
For the first time and amid international criticism against the abduction of the Lebanese prime minister, another unprecedented event in international diplomacy has occurred. During a meeting of the Iranian cabinet, President Hassan Rouhani directly addressed Saudi Arabia.
The "Blatant interference in a country like Lebanon, forcing its PM to resign is unprecedented,” Rouhani said, “replacing him with another. Who do you think you are and on what basis do you take such steps?” What is more, “It is shameful that a Muslim country should ask the Zionist entity to bomb the Lebanese people."