Lebanon runners race to show support for resigned PM
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Participants in Beirut’s annual marathon usually run to support medical research or human rights. But this year, Lebanese racers have opted for another cause: their missing prime minister.
Rumours have since swirled that he is being held in Riyadh against his will -- and energetic Lebanese literally raced to show him support on the morning of Nov. 12.
A bright red billboard welcomed runners to the marathon’s starting line in downtown Beirut with a picture of a sprinting Hariri and the Arabic caption, "We are all waiting for you."
Young men and women distributed water bottles labelled with the same slogan, as well as caps and t-shirts that read, "Running for you."
"I needed a cap and I like Lebanon, so I took a hat," said 30-year-old Nisrine Chamseddine, who had just completed an eight-kilometre (five-mile) race.
Online, supporters tweeted pictures from the event with the Arabic hashtags "Run for Saad" and "Saad’s coming back."
Hariri -- who enjoys exercise, according to close friends -- has taken part in the Beirut marathon in previous years.
But on Sunday morning, tens of thousands of runners gathered for the 15th year of the annual race without their prime minister.
Aoun has yet to formally accept Hariri’s resignation and has criticised the circumstances surrounding it as "unacceptable".
In his shock announcement, Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region, saying he feared for his life.
But his subsequent week-long absence from Lebanon has sparked concerns that the ex-premier -- who also holds Saudi nationality -- is under de facto house arrest in the kingdom.