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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Saudi Arabia asks citizens to leave Lebanon

Warning comes amid heightened tensions with Iran and Lebanese group Hizbollah over meddling in the region

S&P Global Ratings affirms Saudi Arabia's 'A-/A-2' rating. Ibrahim Chalhoub / AFP
S&P Global Ratings affirms Saudi Arabia's 'A-/A-2' rating. Ibrahim Chalhoub / AFP

Saudi Arabia on Thursday asked its citizens to leave Lebanon "as soon as possible" amid heightened tensions with Iran and the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hizbollah.

Saudis have also been advised against travelling to Lebanon, a source at the foreign ministry told the official Saudi Press Agency.

"Due to the circumstances in the Lebanese Republic, the kingdom asks its citizens who are visiting or residing there to leave as soon as possible," the source said.

The warning comes days after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address from Saudi Arabia, accusing Iran and Hizbollah of stirring trouble in Arab states and saying he feared assassination. He has remained in Saudi Arabia since then apart from a short visit to the UAE.

His resignation followed growing Saudi criticism of Iran and Hizbollah, which Riyadh accuses of hijacking Lebanon's political system.

The shock move triggered accusations in Lebanon that Mr Hariri had been pressured to resign by Saudi Arabia and was being kept there against his will, charges that Riyadh has denied.

The Future Movement party led by Mr Hariri has also denied he was under house arrest, but on Thursday joined calls for him to come back to Lebanon.

A statement issued after a party meeting said Mr Hariri's return was "necessary to recover respect for Lebanon's internal and external balance, and in the framework of full respect for Lebanese legitimacy".

Mr Hariri, who holds Saudi citizenship, had an audience with King Salman in Riyadh on Monday before travelling the next day to the UAE, where he had a meeting Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. He has also met the head of the EU mission to Saudi Arabia, the British and French ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, and the US charge d'affaires this week.

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Read more:

With Hariri gone, Hizbollah is leading Lebanon down a dangerous path

US and EU say relationship with Lebanon 'will not change' after Hariri's resignation

Saad Hariri’s resignation was a shock, but what will happen next?

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