France calls for 'non-interference' in Lebanon crisis; Iran says it doesn't interfere in Lebanese state affairs

People watch an interview with Lebanon's resigned prime minister Saad Hariri at a coffee shop in Beirut on Nov 12, 2017.
People watch an interview with Lebanon's resigned prime minister Saad Hariri at a coffee shop in Beirut on Nov 12, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP, REUTERS) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Monday (Nov 13) for "non-interference" in Lebanon, after the country's prime minister announced his surprise resignation in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia.

"For there to be a political solution in Lebanon, it is necessary that all of the political leaders have total freedom of movement and that non-interference is a fundamental principle," Le Drian said as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Saad Hariri sent shock waves through Lebanon when he unexpectedly quit as prime minister a week ago, but on Sunday rejected rumours he was under de facto house arrest in Riyadh, insisting he was "free" and would return home soon.

His resignation came as tensions rise between Riyadh and Tehran, which back opposing sides in power struggles from Lebanon and Syria to Yemen.

Iran said on Monday (Nov 13) that it does not interfere in Lebanon and that comments on Sunday by Hariri gave hope he would soon return to his country, state TV reported. 

Teheran has accused Riyadh and its allies of trying to stoke tension in the Middle East. 

“Hariri’s remarks on Sunday gave small hope of the possibility of his return to Lebanon...Iran does not interfere in Lebanon’s affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state TV.  

Le Drian said France was "worried by the situation in Lebanon" and wanted to see the government there "stabilise as quickly as possible".

Other Western countries have moved to express their support for Hariri, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling him a "strong partner".

Tillerson warned against "any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country".