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Prime Minister of Lebanon says he will be in Beirut within days
After making a strange resignation announcement from Saudi Arabia that unleashed fears of a political crisis in Lebanon; Prime Minister Saad Hariri stated he would return home in the coming days to declare a political stance.
On Saturday in efforts to dispel rumors he was being held against his will in Saudi Arabia, Hariri met with French President Emmanuel Macron who was seeking to calm tensions and avoid a proxy conflict between Saudi and Iranian backed camps in Lebanon.
Hariri confirmed to Lebanese President Michel Aoun he will take part in Independence Day celebrations in Beirut on Wednesday, according to Macron’s office.
After his meeting with Macron, Hariri told reporters; “God willing, I will attend Independence Day in Lebanon and will declare my political stance from Lebanon and after meeting President Michel Aoun.”
“As you know I resigned and we will talk about this matter in Lebanon,” Hariri said after thanking Macron, who he added, “expressed pure friendship toward me that I will never forget.”
Usually held by the president, prime minister and parliament speaker the independence day ceremony with Hariri’s attendance could help ease the uncertainty that has escalated since his strange and surprising resignation announcement from Saudi Arabia on Nov.
Although Hariri’s political status remains unclear, Lebanon’s president refused to accept his resignation making accusation the Saudi’s were holding him against his will.
Before his departure from Riyadh, Hariri brushed off “rumors” about his alleged detention in the kingdom. Via Twitter, he reiterated his stay in Saudi Arabia was to confer with officials on the future of Lebanon and its relation with its Arab neighbors.
Hariri stated he was fearful of his life in the televised resignation announcement; where he also cited Iran and Hezbollah for meddling in Arab countries, notably Suadi Arabia.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia asked it’s citizens for the second time in less than two weeks to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible” given the “circumstances,” raising fears of more severe actions to come.
The Arab League is set to hold a meeting on Sunday in Cairo at Saudi Arabia’s urging where the Lebanon crisis and Iran’s role in the region are expected to be discussed.
Hariri met with the Saudi Crown Prince and other senior officials just before leaving Saudi Arabia, according to a member of Hariri’s political party and two Lebanese television stations.
Hariri held private talks with Macron and then they were joined by Hariri’s wife Lara al-Azm and elder son Hussam and Macron’s wife Brigitte for lunch.
The exact next movements of Hariri after his planned visit to Lebanon are unclear. French officials say they are offering Hariri the necessary support during this time of political turmoil in his country. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.
Macron insisted he is not offering “exile,” Lebanon’s internal tensions could complicate Hariri’s return.
While the United States under President Donald Trump is increasingly seen as unpredictable or disengaged, Macron seeks to reassert French influence in the region. Macron’s office says France’s strategy is to talk to all powers in the region and not to appear as choosing a camp.
Another issue might emerge with Hariri’s arrival in France: Dozens of French employees are suing in French courts his Saudi Oger construction firm, which has failed to pay them for months.
The company owes them 14 million euros ($16.5 million) — an amount Hariri committed to paying after several meetings with French diplomats but never did, according to the French daily Liberation.