Saudi Arabia rejects Macron comment over Hariri 'detention'

Riyadh (AFP) –


Saudi Arabia on Tuesday rejected French President Emmanuel Macron's comment that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri had been held against his will in the kingdom in November.

Hariri announced on November 4 that he was stepping down in a televised address from Riyadh, only to rescind it the following month after Macron's intervention.

In an interview broadcast Friday by French broadcaster BFMTV, Macron described how he waded into the crisis after Hariri resigned, allegedly under pressure from the Saudi crown prince.

"Lebanon has since emerged from a serious crisis where, as I recall, a prime minister was held in Saudi Arabia for several weeks," Macron said.

On Tuesday, a Saudi foreign ministry spokesman denied that Hariri was held against his will.

"What the French president said in an interview with channel BFMTV that the kingdom had held Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is incorrect," he was quoted as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was and still supports the stability and security of Lebanon and Prime Minister Hariri," he said.

The spokesman went on to accuse Saudi regional rival Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, of stoking instability in Lebanon.

Macron's mediation in the crisis, which led Hariri to travel to Paris and then rescind his resignation, was seen by analysts as exposing the limits of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's authority.

During a his first visit to France in April as the heir to the Saudi throne, the prince and Macron hailed a warming of ties between Paris and Riyadh but conceded some differences over Iran.