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Lebanon asks Saudi Arabia for explanation on Hariri's absence

Members of Hariri's own Al-Moustaqbal party say they have no information on his fate
Poster of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri hangs on side of roundabout in northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli (AFP)

Lebanon's president called on Saudi Arabia on Saturday to explain why Saad Hariri has not returned to Beirut since his surprise resignation as prime minister a week ago.

Hariri's phone was confiscated after he arrived in Riyadh and the next day he was forced to resign on a Saudi TV channel, senior sources close to Hariri and top Lebanese political and security officials said.

The premier has yet to return to Lebanon and rumours have swirled that he is being held in Saudi Arabia against his will. Lebanese authorities believe Riyadh is detaining Hariri, according to two top Lebanese government officials, a senior politician close to Hariri and a fourth source.

President Michel Aoun on Saturday called on the kingdom to "clarify the reasons that have prevented the return of PM Hariri to Lebanon to be among his people and supporters". Members of Hariri's own Al-Moustaqbal party said they had no information on his fate.

"The obscurity surrounding the condition of PM Saad Hariri since his resignation a week ago means that all positions and actions declared by him or attributed to him do not reflect the truth," Aoun added.

Aoun on Saturday spoke by phone to French President Emmanuel Macron on the "latest developments" around Hariri's resignation, Lebanon's presidency said in a statement. 

France has historical ties with Lebanon, as the former mandate power before independence.

The Lebanese head of state has yet to formally accept Hariri's resignation and has criticised the circumstances surrounding it as "unacceptable".

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

His statement prompted fears that Lebanon - dominated by rival camps led by Hariri and Hezbollah - may be caught up in spiralling tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.

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