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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Saudi Arabia orders its citizens to leave Lebanon

Workers hang a poster of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri with Arabic words that read
Workers hang a poster of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri with Arabic words that read "We are all Saad" (AP)

Saudi Arabia has ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon amid rising tensions between their two governments.

A brief statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency called on all Saudis living in or visiting Lebanon to depart, and warned against travel to the country.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shocked his country on Saturday when he announced in a televised statement out of Saudi Arabia that he was resigning. He has not been seen in Lebanon since.

He said his country had been taken hostage by the militant group Hezbollah, a partner in his coalition government and a major foe of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia said it considers Hezbollah's participation in the Lebanese government an "act of war" against the kingdom.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will not consider the premier's resignation until the two meet in person.

Meanwhile, the political party of Mr Hariri called for his immediate return to Lebanon.

Following a meeting of his Saudi-aligned Future Party in Beirut on Thursday, the party issued a statement saying it was "necessary" for Mr Hariri to return "to restore Lebanon's dignity and respect".

The statement read by former prime minister Fuad Saniora seemed to indicate that Mr Hariri is being held in Saudi Arabia against his will.

Mr Hariri resigned his post abruptly on Saturday in a pre-recorded speech. In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the 47-year old prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Mr Hariri is under house arrest.

Bahrain had ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon earlier in the week, and later on Thursday Kuwait did the same.

Kuwait's foreign ministry said its decision was taken "as a precaution for any negative repercussions" in Lebanon.

Press Association

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