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Saudi Arabia Tells Citizens to Leave Crisis-Hit Lebanon

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Riyadh vows to take 'escalatory measures' against Lebanon unless 'status quo' is swiftly restored.

Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan said Thursday that his country would take "escalatory measures” against Lebanon “unless the status quo is restored”.

"Escalatory measures will be taken swiftly unless the status quo is restored," al-Subhan tweeted without specifying the nature of the threatened measures.

Al-Subhan issued the threat shortly after Saudi Arabia instructed its citizens residing in or visiting Lebanon to leave the country “as soon as possible”, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“Due to the situation in the Republic of Lebanon, [Saudi nationals] visiting or residing in Lebanon are asked to depart the country as soon as possible,” the SPA quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying.

The announcement came only four days after the oil-rich kingdom appointed a new ambassador to Lebanon after the post had stood vacant for 15 months.

It also came six days after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly announced his resignation in a televised address delivered from Riyadh.

In his resignation address, Hariri criticized Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, accusing them of sowing “sedition” in the region and meddling in Arab affairs.

The resignation, however, has yet to be formally accepted by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who has demanded that Hariri -- who still appears to be in Saudi Arabia -- first return to Lebanon to clarify his position. 

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, for his part, has said there was “no reason” for Hariri to step down, accusing Saudi Arabia of forcing him to resign.

In televised comments on Monday evening, Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan dismissed claims that Riyadh had forced Hariri to step down, saying these were "lies" disseminated by Hezbollah. 

Al-Sabhan went on to warn that the consequences of Hezbollah's actions would be "very severe for Lebanon".

Hariri was appointed Lebanese prime minister late last year. Before Saturday’s resignation, he had led a 30-member government that included Hezbollah representatives.

Saudi Arabia, Hariri’s longtime backer, is Iran’s arch-foe in the region. While Riyadh supports Syria’s armed opposition, Iran and Hezbollah both support Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime.

 

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