"Nothing justifies that Saad Hariri has not returned to Lebanon in 12 days. We consider that he has been detained," President Aoun told reporters on Wednesday. The comments are his most direct criticism of Saudi Arabia in the crisis to date.
Hariri resigned from his post in a speech from the Saudi capital Riyadh in a surprise announcement on 4 November, plunging Lebanon into its latest political problems.
He has remained in the Kingdom since, leading to speculation he is not operating of his own free will.
Hariri's alleged detention breached the Vienna Convention, Aoun said. The prime minister - whose resignation Aoun has not accepted - must return for the state to function, he added. Aoun's comments are widely seen to be upping the ante in the Beirut-Riyadh standoff.
The prime minister himself has given one interview to Lebanon's Future TV since his shock resignation. It did little to assuage Lebanese fears that the move was orchestrated by authorities in Riyadh.
Irate Saudis compelled Hariri to resign
Pundits believe Riyadh is irate that Hariri has failed to contain Hezbollah, and seeks to derail the coalition government.
Thus the summoning of Lebanese PM Saad Hariri to Saudi Arabia and consequently being compelled to resign marked the start of renewed efforts by the regime in Riyadh to weaken and isolate Hezbollah, with Iran being the ultimate target.
After the dismal failure of its schemes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, which were all geared towards dealing a blow to the resistance movement, the Saudi regime under Crown Prince and de facto ruler, Mohammad bin Salman, is now desperate to harm Hezbollah.
Propaganda to weaken Hezbollah
Following the forced resignation of Hariri, Arab and Western media outlets have been engaged in a deliberate propaganda overdrive to weaken Hezbollah based on two major issues.
First, that the Saudi regime is imposing sanctions on Lebanon due to alleged Hezbollah’s interference in regional affairs.
Echoing the Saudi regime's stances, Hariri warned of possible Arab sanctions claiming the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese living in the Persian Gulf are in danger.
Even before talk of sanctions on Lebanon as a country, the US House of Representatives has endorsed new sanctions on the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah.
The new sanctions were passed by voice vote, without opposition on Wednesday on the pretext of the resistance group’s “acts of death and destruction.”
This is while Hezbollah has played a major role in battling ISIS Takfiri terrorists near the Lebanese border with Syria.
Secondly there are claims of an impending attack by Israel on Lebanon at the behest of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has said it would deem Lebanon as having declared a war on the kingdom, because of its failure to stop what it calls aggression by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.
Rumors of war
As the Saudi-Israeli ties continue to warm up, there have been reports that the regime in Riyadh is considering a deal which will see the Israeli regime launch a devastating attack on Lebanon in the name of fighting Hezbollah. Addressing his supporters via a speech broadcast live from the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on November 10 Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah dispelled concerns of an impending Israeli attack.
“Israel may push Takfiri militants to start a war against Lebanon. I don’t think Israelis would choose to get into a war with Lebanon following an act of cool calculation,” Nasrallah said.
Both scenarios are meant to create a rift between Hezbollah and the Lebanese people, who come from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. The propaganda aims to present Hezbollah as the source of war and sanctions on Lebanese people and thus weaken the firm standing of the resistance movement.