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European Union says Hariri must return to Lebanon, warns against Saudi interference

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Leading article November 12 2017 12:01am The Sunday Times Saudi Arabia’s young man in a hurry is taking big risks

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".

For eight days following his resignation on November 4, Hariri was seen but not heard.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said there was a danger of Lebanon falling back into "political and sometimes military confrontations".

He is set to visit the Saudi capital on Thursday.

If the interview was meant to end the rumors that Hariri is being coerced by Saudi Arabia, it didn't exactly work.

Meanwhile the French presidency welcomed Hariri's comment that he would soon be returning to Lebanon. "So, we are waiting for him.to hear from him the truth".

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Patriarch Beshara al-Rai heads the Maronite church, which has a presence in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus and follows an Eastern rite of the Roman Catholic church. This, Hariri said, would have to stop. So Lebanese take life one step at a time.

AMID concerns about giving land for the King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP), Special Functions Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced that controversial Crown Prince Mohammad Salman will open the centre next year. Hezbollah and the Houthis deny that the Lebanese group is carrying out anti-Saudi activities in Yemen. A White House statement on Saturday described Hariri as "a trusted partner of the United States in strengthening Lebanese institutions, fighting terrorism, and protecting refugees". "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.

"We are preoccupied by the situation in Lebanon... we are worried about its stability, we are worried about its integrity, we are worried about non-interference", Jean-Yves Le Drian said. He added that Hariri says he is free to move and "we don't have any reason not to believe him".

"To reach a political solution in Lebanon, all political figures must have complete freedom of movement", he told reporters when asked about Hariri. He pleaded with the interviewer to finish the questioning and said he was "tired".

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said that a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday had voiced unanimous support for Lebanon's "unity and stability".

"I am freely in the kingdom, and if I want to travel tomorrow, I will travel".

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