Resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri Accepts Invitation to Come to France

Lawrence Kim
November 18, 2017

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has accepted an invitation to come to France after his surprise resignation from Saudi Arabia almost two weeks ago that stunned Lebanon and rattled the region, the French president's office announced on Thursday. "I am on the way to the airport".

Lebanese President Michel Aoun this week accused Saudi authorities of "detaining" Hariri, but Riyadh said he was free to leave the kingdom "when he pleases".

Mr Hariri's televised November 4 resignation from Riyadh stunned the Lebanese, many of whom saw it as a sign that the kingdom - the Prime Minister's chief ally - had made a decision to drag tiny Lebanon into the Sunni kingdom's feud with the region's other powerhouse, the predominantly Shiite Iran.

Hariri announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia almost two weeks ago, citing concerns over the meddling of Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, in regional affairs. And while he has denied that he has been detained by Saudi, it is widely reported that the resignation came as a direct result of Saudi pressure on Hariri, and even that the speech was written by officials in Saudi and given to Hariri to read.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has a long-running rivalry with Shia-led Iran, which supports Lebanon's main political power broker, Hezbollah.

Sources close to the prime minister said that he was forced to quit by Saudi officials in Riyadh.

Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Madrid that the Shiite group was destabilising Lebanon by maintaining its arsenal and fighters in the Mediterranean nation.

The Arab League is to hold an extraordinary meeting next Sunday at the request of Saudi Arabia to discuss alleged "violations" committed by Iran in the region.

It was the second day in a row that the Saudi minister railed against Hezbollah.

Mr Hariri's Future TV in Lebanon said he will leave Saudi Arabia on Friday night.

On Thursday, he called the group a "first-class terrorist organisation" that should lay down its arms and respect Lebanon's sovereignty.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Mr Hariri was seen as engineered by Saudi Arabia and raised concerns it would drag Lebanon, with its delicate sectarian-based political system, into the battle for regional supremacy.

"The accusation that the kingdom would hold a prime minister or a former prime minister is not true, especially a political ally like President Saad Hariri", Mr al-Jubeir said during a press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is visiting Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned against foreign interference in Lebanese affairs following Mr Hariri's resignation.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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