Saad Hariri pledged on Sunday he would return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia "very soon", in his first television interview since his shock resignation as Lebanese prime minister eight days ago. On Sunday, another TV appearance by Hariri was filled with freakish moments.
Cardinal Bechara el-Rai's visit, the first ever by a Maronite patriarch to the kingdom according to the cardinal, has taken on special significance since Hariri announced his resignation in a surprise statement broadcast from Riyadh on November 4. Although he met with various ambassadors in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in the days that followed, no one in Lebanon was really sure what was happening to him. Tillerson's backing of Hariri and the Lebanese government contrasted sharply with the approach taken by Saudi Arabia, which has lumped Lebanon with Hezbollah as parties hostile to it.
He appeared near the table where the interview was taking place, when Hariri's eyes were wide open staring toward him with an angry and disgusted look.
Two U.S. officials said the Saudis, led by Crown Prince Mohammed, had "encouraged" Hariri to leave office and Lebanese officials say he is being held in Saudi Arabia, a charge Riyadh denies.
He also repeatedly said he was ready to die for Lebanon his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a vehicle bomb in Beirut in 2005 but added that he didn't want his children to go through that kind of ordeal.
Aoun said he would not accept Hariri's resignation until he returns to Lebanon to explain his position.
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Just hours before Hariri's interview on Sunday, Aoun blasted the "obscure circumstances" around the resigned prime minister's stay in Riyadh. He pleaded with the interviewer to finish the questioning and said he was "tired".
"I see Rex Tillerson as being an old fashioned American diplomat and old fashioned American diplomacy in the Middle East is all about stability", said F. Gregory Gause, chairman of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University.
Hariri, who has not returned to Lebanon since he declared his shock resignation, said he stepped down for the sake of the Lebanese national interest, repeatedly saying the country must stick by a policy of "disassociation" from regional conflict.
"These ports are in Aden, Mocha and Mukalla, " it added. His demeanor triggered a new hashtag, #UnderPressure, reflecting that people were unconvinced he was a free man.
Hariri's interview on Sunday night, carried by Future TV, a channel associated with his political party, raised some new questions. Throughout the interview, Yacoubian went to great lengths to prove the interview was live.
Tillerson's statement also urged "all parties both within Lebanon and outside" to respect Lebanon's independence and said there was no role for any foreign forces. Then, when an natural disaster was reported in Iraq and Iran, she referenced it, telling Hariri it was to make sure people believed the interview was live.