A new political crisis gripping the Middle East has destroyed the relative peace of Lebanon's coalition government, ruled - until just days ago - by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, after his stunning November 4 resignation that was announced from within Saudi Arabia, where he remains as of this moment.
The race turned into a political rally, with numerous runners calling for the return of Hariri, who has not publicly spoken since unexpectedly announcing his resignation.
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.
"The head of the Lebanese government is detained in Saudi Arabia, he is banned from returning to Lebanon until now", Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address on Friday.
France's foreign ministry on Friday nuanced comments made earlier by its minister, suggesting that former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri may not be free and urging that he continue to play his rightful role in the country.
A picture of Lebanon's prime minister appeared this week on the front of a popular daily newspaper below the headline "The Hostage". He denied he was being held against his will in the kingdom.
Hariri came back to Beirut from that trip "pleased and relaxed", sources in his entourage said. He said he realizes his resignation was unconventional, adding he was ready to return to formally submit it and seek a settlement with Hezbollah. A White House statement on Saturday described Hariri as "a trusted partner of the United States in strengthening Lebanese institutions, fighting terrorism, and protecting refugees".
On Monday, French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian called for "non-interference" in Lebanon.
"We are anxious about its stability, we are anxious about its integrity", Le Drian said. "I warned many times but I did not get any response", Mr Hariri said. "But for there to be a political solution in Lebanon every political official must have total freedom in their movements".
It was also reported that Future TV and MTV, channels who did broadcast the interview, were blocked in several areas across the country. He pleaded with the interviewer to finish the questioning and said he was "tired".
His resignation is part of a much bigger geopolitical drama that is now unfolding in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
His father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a auto bomb in Beirut in 2005.
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