Sabhan Says Riyadh 'Has Not Backtracked' after Hariri's Remarks
Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan said Monday that Riyadh “has not backtracked” on its stances, when asked about the conciliatory tone that characterized Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Sunday interview.
Al-Sabhan, a firebrand Saudi official who had posted several anti-Hizbullah and anti-Iran tweets in recent months, was speaking to reporters during his reception of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi at the King Salman air base in Riyadh.
Al-Rahi kicked off a landmark visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday, the first by a Maronite patriarch to the kingdom ever.
In his first TV interview since he announced his surprise resignation last weekend from Riyadh, Hariri said Sunday he will return to his country from Saudi Arabia "within days" to seek a settlement with Iran-backed Hizbullah.
Hariri, looking downcast and tired, denied he was being held against his will in the kingdom and said he was compelled to resign to save Lebanon from imminent dangers, which he didn't specify.
He held back tears at one point and repeated several times that he resigned to create a "positive shock" and draw attention to the danger of siding with Iran in regional conflicts.
Hariri sounded less belligerent in Sunday's interview than he did during the resignation announcement.
A political crisis has gripped Lebanon since Hariri read his televised resignation from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4 in which he accused Iran of meddling in Lebanon in a vicious tirade that was uncharacteristic of the usually soft-spoken premier.