Saudi Arabia orders its citizens to leave Lebanon

BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia ordered its citizens out of Lebanon Thursday amid skyrocketing tensions between their two governments.

A brief statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency called on all Saudis living in or visiting Lebanon to depart, and warned against travel to the country.

In an escalating war of words, Hezbollah called on Saudi Arabia to stay out of Lebanese affairs, saying the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced from Riyadh over the weekend, “has raised many questions.”

In a statement, the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc said Saudi Arabia was mired in crisis after the failure of its two and half-year military intervention in Yemen, which has led to a military stalemate.

Hariri shocked his country Saturday when he announced in a televised statement out of Saudi Arabia that he was resigning. He has not been seen in Lebanon since.

He said his country had been taken hostage by the terrorist group Hezbollah, a partner in his coalition government and a major foe of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia says it considers Hezbollah’s participation in the Lebanese government an “act of war” against the kingdom.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will not consider the premier’s resignation until the two meet in person.

Saudi Arabia has demanded that Hezbollah, a powerful Iran-backed group, play no role in Lebanon’s government.

The Shiite group has been represented in Lebanon’s parliament since 1992 and is a key member of the coalition government. Its armed wing is more powerful than Lebanon’s army, and its fighters battle alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.

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