Iran says it does not interfere in Lebanese state affairs, says TV

Saad al Hariri in Riyadh

In separate remarks relayed by visitors to him, Aoun gave a positive assessment of comments Hariri made in an interview on Sunday, his first since his shock decision to quit delivered from Riyadh on November 4.

His remarks came during a television interview with Lebanese journalist Paula Yacoubian in Riyadh, where Mr Hariri has remained since his resignation.

Hariri, who has not returned to Lebanon since he declared his shock resignation, said he stepped down for the sake of the Lebanese national interest, repeatedly saying the country must stick by a policy of "disassociation" from regional conflict.

The resignation and its aftermath have thrust Lebanon back to the forefront of the conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran.

"I am free", Hariri told the interviewer, apparently seeking to show he was not being detained by the Saudis.

Abi Khalil said on Twitter that he signed a document on Friday calling on companies who submitted bids for the offshore licensee blocks "to negotiate the technical proposals".

He said Saudi Arabia is likely "trying to establish a regional and global coalition, supported by the United States and President Trump, to try and counter the Iranian presence".

The Lebanon president sought to smooth his inquiries with soft language, including reminding Riyadh of a "deep brotherly and friendly relations" between the two countries.

Next to Saad Hariri was a photograph of the man they alleged to be his captor: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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While Hariri cited the overwhelming influence of Iran and Hezbollah on Lebanese politics as the reason for his departure from office, there have been many indications that he is being kept against will in Saudi Arabia.

In his shock announcement, Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizbollah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region, saying he feared for his life.

"We wish that Saad al-Hariri has all his freedom of movement and be fully able to play the essential role that is his in Lebanon", deputy foreign ministry spokesman Alexandre Georgini said.

On Monday, French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian called for "non-interference" in Lebanon.

Hariri told aides his trip to Riyadh would be quick.

"The greatness of the nation of Iran in the region is more than at any other time".

In the last five years, Hizbollah has become a critical player in the Syrian war, sending thousands of fighters to shore up the government there.

Cardinal Bechara El Rai, the head of Lebanon's Maronite sect, the country's largest Christian community, was expected to meet with Mr Hariri.

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