White House condemns threats to Lebanon’s stability after prime minister resigns

White House condemns threats to Lebanon’s stability after prime minister resigns
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The United States expressed its support for Lebanon's sovereignty on Saturday and called for stability in the country amid boiling tensions between Beirut and Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders affirmed Washington's support for Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who abruptly resigned last week in a televised address from Riyadh, the Saudi capital. 

"Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri has been a trusted partner of the United States in strengthening Lebanese institutions, fighting terrorism, and protecting refugees," Sanders said. "The United States firmly reiterates that the Lebanese Armed Forces and other Lebanese state security forces are the only legitimate security authorities in Lebanon."

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Hariri's stunning resignation has sparked political turmoil in Lebanon that has only heightened amid suggestions that the prime minister was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will and that he was ultimately forced to resign.

Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based political party and militant group, accused Saudi Arabia on Friday of declaring war against Lebanon by detaining Hariri and ignoring demands from Lebanese officials to return the prime minister to Beirut.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia said that Lebanon and Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, had declared war on Riyadh. The Saudi government also called on its citizens in Lebanon to promptly leave the country.

Lebanon, long the site of proxy wars, has remained relatively peaceful under its current coalition government. In a statement on Friday, Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE warned domestic and foreign groups against wading back into proxy conflicts.

"The United States cautions 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," Tillerson said.