Lebanon's Maronite patriarch makes historic Saudi visit

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Speaking to Bloomberg TV during a visit to London, Salameh stressed that the crisis in Lebanon is political and not monetary.

Bassil said Lebanon considers Saudi Arabia to be a "brotherly" country, as he appeared to try to ease any possible friction between the two countries from the incident.

She said outside interference in Lebanon - buffeted for decades by conflicts between bigger players in the region such as Iran and Syria - was a "current and always existing threat". This is the same tactic they are following in Iraq and Syria. Lebanon must remain neutral and independent.

If the interview was meant to end the rumors that Hariri is being coerced by Saudi Arabia, it didn't exactly work. "We want our Prime Minister to be back, freely, in his country, where he can declare whatever he wants".

She praised the achievements of the Lebanese government under Hariri, who resigned saying he feared assassination. The United States, the U.K. and several European countries issued barely veiled rebukes of Saudi Arabia, as they called for stability in Lebanon.

El-Rai and Saudi Charge d'Affaires Walid al-Bukhari said the kingdom is not likely to deport Lebanese citizens as punishment for the participation of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanese politics. "I think this kind of strong-arm tactic [by Saudi Arabia] obviously caused a lot of alarm, and that flies in the face of global norms". So I suspect that this was kind of a way to soften the entire situation.

Hariri's shock resignation after less than a year as premier mystified Lebanon and led to speculation by some media outlets and politicians that he was forced into it by the Gulf kingdom.

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This week's events, he says, are Hariri's own chosen response to an escalating power struggle in the Middle East.

"I think this is all part of a trend that is regional and not just about Lebanon".

"As much as we don't want intervention in Saudi Arabia coming from Lebanese, we don't want interventions in Lebanon coming from any foreign country or any aggression against Lebanon", Bassil said. Lebanon's prime minister gave a TV interview and did not sound like he's quitting after all.

He said: "Iran must stop meddling in the affairs of Arab countries and we refuse to be taken by Iran to an axis against Arab countries". As well as being a well-armed militia, Hezbollah is a dominant force in Lebanon's ministerial Cabinet.

It will be the first time a cardinal officially visits Saudi Arabia and the first visit of an Eastern patriarch to the kingdom since Greek Orthodox Patriarch Elias IV of Antioch in 1975.

SHERLOCK: This, he says, will depend on Hezbollah meeting certain demands.

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