Saad Hariri, the resigned prime minister of Lebanon, has said he will return to the country in a matter of days.
Hariri made the comments from Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, in his first interview since his shock resignation eight days ago.
In the televised interview shown on Sunday on Future TV, a station affiliated with his political party, Hariri said he was free in Saudi Arabia, quashing rumours that he was being held against his will.
“Here in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I am free. I have complete freedom, but I want to look after my family as well,” he said.
Why is Lebanese PM Saad Hariri still in Saudi Arabia?
Lebanese officials have said Hariri is likely to be under either house arrest or in temporary detention in Riyadh.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, said the reason the interview happened was to convince the Lebanese people that Hariri was not held hostage.
“The majority of the Lebanese believe, in one way or another, that there is something wrong – that Hariri is either detained or house arrest and he is not able to return to Beirut,” said Khodr.
Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician and longtime ally of Saudi Arabia, quit as Lebanon’s prime minister on November 4 during a visit to Riyadh.
He blamed Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for “sowing strife” in the region.
The unexpected move has also stoked fears of an escalation in the regional divide between Iran and the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, with Lebanon on the front lines.