BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia dismissed rumors Sunday that it planned to take measures against Lebanese nationals living in the kingdom or withdraw its money from Lebanese banks, and gave reassurances that its interests were for a stable Lebanon.
Second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz said his country admired the working Lebanese in Saudi Arabia and supported Lebanon’s economy and stability.
“The kingdom is eager [to continue] to have the Lebanese community on its land and [members of the community] are always respected by the kingdom’s leadership, with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz at the forefront,” Prince Muqrin told a delegation of leading Lebanese private sector figures that paid him a visit in Riyadh.
“The kingdom’s policy toward Lebanon is fixed and will not change because the kingdom and the king in particular, hold Lebanon in special esteem,” Prince Muqrin said.
The Saudi prince said that King Abdullah would continue to support Lebanon and its economy and would remain at an equal distance from all Lebanese groups.
“This is because for us, Lebanon’s stability is essential for it to be able to continue its well-known pioneering role in the region,” he added.
Rumors circulated last week that the Saudi government and Saudi investors were withdrawing their deposits from Lebanese banks over Lebanon’s supposed failure to adopt its self-avowed dissociation policy toward unrest in the region, particularly in Syria.
Others said Saudi Arabia was considering to deport Lebanese nationals on its territory. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese currently work in the kingdom and other Gulf states.
Last week, Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour called during an Arab League meeting for reinstating Syria’s membership, sparking the ire of the Lebanese opposition, which accused him of deviating from the dissociation policy. Some opposition members called for dismissing Mansour from office as a result.
A day earlier, Abdel Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, delivered a letter to President Michel Sleiman expressing “extreme concerns” that Lebanon was not abiding by the disassociation policy.
Prince Muqrin assured the delegation that neither the Saudi government nor Saudi investors intended to withdraw deposits from Lebanese banks. “This is a mere rumor, just like the other rumors that emerged recently,” he said, referring to the rumor that Lebanese nationals would be expelled.
The delegation, headed by former minister Adnan Kassar, relayed Sleiman’s greetings to Prince Muqrin and to King Abdullah along with the president’s eagerness to maintain the best ties with Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Separately, key private sector officials also discussed the situation in Lebanon with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri at his residence in Riyadh.
Hariri and members of the delegation highlighted the need to consecrate national unity in Lebanon, according to the National News Agency. They also called for protecting Lebanese interests and Lebanese citizens from danger, and for adopting rational political rhetoric toward other Gulf countries, so they could continue to support for Lebanon’s development.
Hariri praised the role of the private sector , which he said was contributing to the growth of the economy despite difficult conditions.
Al-Riyadh, a Saudi newspaper, launched a scathing attack against Mansour, describing him as “the foreign minister of the terrorist Amal Movement,” as Mansour is close to Speaker Nabih Berri, the Amal leader.
In an editorial Sunday, the paper mocked the dissociation policy of “Hezbollah’s Lebanese government,” saying it is unique just like Lebanese-made food.
“This is the dissociation policy that Adnan Mansour, the foreign minister of terrorist Amal Movement, has practiced with utmost smugness, stupidity, conspiring against the Syrian people,” it said.
Al-Riyadh described Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah as a “terrorist” who is sending gunmen to fight alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Sleiman told Mansour during a meeting at Baabda Palace over the weekend that Lebanon’s disassociation policy should be clearly expressed by officials at international forums.
“Stances taken at international forums by government officials and ministers, particularly the foreign minister, should reflect this [disassociation] policy without [causing] confusion,” Sleiman said.
“Such stances should be discussed in advance with the president, who in turn discusses them with the prime minister,” the president added.
Local media outlets reported that Manosur responded to a letter he received from Prime Minister Najib Mikati last week about the remarks made during the Arab League meeting.
Mansour reportedly said in his response that remarks similar to the one he made during the Arab League meeting had been made previously by Sleiman during a visit to Romania last year. He said the campaign against him and his remarks during the Arab League meeting aimed to topple the government.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as a sharp reprimand to Assad’s leadership over its brutal crackdown on demonstrators seeking to topple his regime.
Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi voiced surprise over rumors that Saudi Arabia would withdraw money from Lebanese banks, saying such rumors harmed the economy and were against the people’s interest.
Safadi said in a statement that the country’s banking system allowed for the free movement of money and that depositors had the freedom to do whatever they please with their funds.
“Anyway, I do not see financial, security or political reasons for withdrawing Saudi deposits from Lebanon, whether governmental or private, because there is mutual trust between Lebanon ... and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Safadi said. “The kingdom supports political, security and financial stability in Lebanon and has proven so in a number of decisive phases throughout our recent history,” he added.
Safadi said some groups were committing a crime against Lebanon by tarnishing country’s reputation in order to make political gains.