Al-Rahi Says Aoun 'Contained' Crisis, Salutes Saudi Arabia

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi announced Tuesday that President Michel Aoun has managed to “contain” the crisis that followed Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock resignation from Riyadh, as he saluted Saudi Arabia over its stances on Lebanon.

“Through his wisdom, composure and prudence, the president has contained all the events and the country has witnessed a return to joy and major unity,” al-Rahi said after talks with Aoun in Baabda, declaring that “the latest crisis has ended.”

As for his latest trip to Saudi Arabia, the patriarch saluted the kingdom over the “wonderful remarks” he heard from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed “about Lebanon and the Lebanese.”

“Lebanon is very important for them and they believe that it should remain open to all people and that it should preserve its friendships with all countries,” al-Rahi added.

“They want Lebanon to remain a beautiful and kind land, a land of freedom and rapprochement, not animosities,” the patriarch said.

Asked about the government and the consultations Aoun has held with the country's political leaders, al-Rahi revealed that the president told him that the Cabinet would convene “early next week to discuss the outcome of the consultations.”

Hariri said Monday that he will resign if Hizbullah refuses to accept a new power-sharing arrangement for Lebanon, speaking as consultations got underway in Beirut between political leaders over the government's future.

The premier said Hizbullah appeared receptive to dialogue, but said he would resign if the group and Iran did not agree to rebalance Lebanon's political configuration. He did not elaborate on the new arrangement he was proposing.

Hariri announced he was resigning Nov. 4, but walked it back after returning home last week.

The original announcement, made from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, was widely seen as orchestrated by Saudi Arabia to pressure Lebanon's politicians into taking stronger measures to contain Hizbullah's influence. Hariri said Monday he wanted to send a "positive shock" across Lebanon through his resignation, and denied that Saudi officials forced him to resign.

Hariri has demanded that Hizbullah remove itself from regional conflicts, from Syria to Iraq and Bahrain and Yemen. Hizbullah denies playing a military role in Yemen but has fighters in both Iraq and Syria.

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