Sunday , November 19 2017

Kuwait, Saudi ask its citizens to quit Lebanon

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 9, (Agencies): Kuwaiti citizens currently in Lebanon are urged to leave the country immediately, a foreign ministry statement said Thursday.

The statement attributed the step to circumstances experienced by Lebanon at the moment, as well as a precautionary measure against any negative impact that might take place.

The statement by a source at the ministry also urged citizens not to travel to Lebanon, wishing at the same time security and stability for the Arab country.

The source provided the emergency number: 0096171171441 to Kuwaiti citizens in Lebanon in need of any help. Saudi Arabia on Thursday urged its citizens to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible”, days after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while visiting the kingdom.

A foreign ministry source, quoted by state news agency SPA, also called on Saudis not to travel to Lebanon, but without specifying any threat. “Due to the situation in the Republic of Lebanon, the kingdom asks its nationals visiting or living in Lebanon to leave as soon as possible, and advises its citizens not to travel there,” the source said.

On Nov 4, Hariri announced in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia that he was stepping down, citing Iran’s “grip” on Lebanon and threats to his life. The shock announcement raised fears that Lebanon — split into rival camps led by Hariri and the Iranian-backed movement Hezbollah — could once again descend into violence.

Hariri, who also holds Saudi nationality and whose wife and children live in the kingdom, has since met Saudi King Salman and travelled to the United Arab Emirates, according to official media in the Gulf states. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will await Hariri’s return before taking any decision, while Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Hariri’s resignation had been “imposed” by Saudi Arabia.

The resignation coincided with the announcement in Saudi Arabia of an anti-corruption purge in which dozens of princes, ministers and businessmen have been rounded up. Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, advised its citizens against travel to Lebanon a day after Hariri’s announcement.

The political party headed by al-Hariri, said on Thursday he must return to Beirut to uphold Lebanon’s system of government. Hariri’s Future Movement said his return home was “necessary to recover respect for Lebanon’s internal and external balance, and in the framework of full respect for Lebanese legitimacy.” Lebanon believes Hariri is being held by Riyadh and plans to work with foreign states to secure his return, two top Lebanese government officials said on Thursday.

A source, a senior politician close to Saudi-allied Hariri, said Saudi Arabia had ordered him to resign and put him under house arrest. Another source familiar with the situation said Saudi Arabia was controlling and limiting his movement. Saudi Arabia and members of Hariri’s Future Movement have denied reports that he is under house arrest. But he has put out no statements himself to that effect, and has not denied that his movements are being restricted.

He made a one-day flying visit to the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally, earlier this week before returning to Saudi Arabia. “Keeping Hariri with restricted freedom in Riyadh is an attack on Lebanese sovereignty. Our dignity is his dignity. We will work with (foreign) states to return him to Beirut,” said the senior Lebanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the government had yet to declare this position. Saudi Arabia says Hariri resigned because Hezbollah, which was included in Hariri’s coalition government, had “hijacked” Lebanon’s political system. Hariri’s office said in statement he had received the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

He had also met the head of the EU mission to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, and on Tuesday the British ambassador and the US charge d’affaires. Hariri came to office last year in a political deal that made the Hezbollah- allied Christian politician Michel Aoun head of state and produced a coalition government grouping most Lebanese parties including Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia blessed the government at the time, but has been fiercely critical of the Hariri-led government since he stepped down, saying it failed to act against Hezbollah, whose guerrilla army is far more powerful than the weak state.

Saudi Arabia had wanted Hariri to take a tougher stance towards Hezbollah, and he failed to do so, the source said. “He was functioning as if it is business as usual, so the Saudis had to accelerate the process and to force a resignation.” Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia last Friday. One of the top Lebanese government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Lebanon is heading towards asking foreign and Arab states to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to release Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.”

The official said Hariri was still Lebanon’s prime minister, echoing other Lebanese government officials who say his resignation had not been received by Aoun and his government therefore remains in place. The resignation of Hariri, a business tycoon whose family made their fortune in Saudi Arabia, happened at the same time as a wave of arrests of Saudi princes and businessmen accused of corruption by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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