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Saudis Deny Forcing Lebanese Prime Minister To Resign, Blame Hezbollah

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri

A top Saudi official rejected accusations by the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement that his government forced Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to announce his resignation over the weekend.

"Talk about Hariri being pushed to resign are lies and aim at distracting the Lebanese people," Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan told Al-Arabiya television on November 6.

Hariri, Lebanon's most prominent Sunni politician, announced he was stepping down on November 4 while visiting his ally, Saudi Arabia, and lashed out at Hezbollah and Iran.

On November 5, Hezbollah's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, said the resignation was not prompted by the political situation in Lebanon and accused Riyadh of forcing Hariri to resign.

Sabhan responded by saying that Hezbollah is the one that controls major decisions in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Hariri arrived in the capital of the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia where he announced his resignation. The visit can show that Hariri is not confined by Saudi Arabia and is free to travel, but does not wish to return to Lebanon.

Lebanon's outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Tuesday, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said.

Hezbollah is both a military and a political organization that is represented in the Lebanese parliament and in the Hariri-led coalition government formed last year.

"The Lebanese must choose between peace or aligning with Hezbollah," Sabhan said.

Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia on November 3 after meeting in Beirut with a top adviser to Iran's supreme leader, who described his coalition government as "a victory" and "great success" afterwards.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters