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Saad Hariri: Lebanon PM leaves Saudi Arabia for France two weeks after shock resignation

Emmanuel Macron invites him to Paris for short break

Tom Batchelor
Friday 17 November 2017 23:39 GMT
Lebanon's former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri
Lebanon's former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (Reuters)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is understood to be travelling from Riyadh to Paris for a "short break" following an invitation from the French President, Emmanuel Macron.

The trip comes two weeks after Mr Hariri abruptly quit and fled to Saudi Arabia, claiming he feared for his life amid increasing pressure from Iran.

Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun, had suggested Mr Hariri was being held hostage by the Saudis.

But Mr Hariri, who sparked a crisis by resigning as Lebanese prime minister on 4 November, tweeted: "To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport..."

He is apparently heading to Paris, after Mr Macron extended an invitation, reportedly to put an end to speculation that Mr Hariri was being held against his will.

Okab Saqr, a member of parliament for Mr Hariri's Future Movement, said that after the visit to France, he would have "a small Arab tour" before travelling to Beirut.

Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Sweden, said Mr Hariri "intends to return to his country in the coming days, weeks".

Mr Hariri's decision to resign was ostensibly triggered by fears of assassination - the fate which befell his father, the much more popular prime minister Rafic Hariri, in 2005 - and a protest against Hezbollah's growing power both at home and over the border, where it is fighting in Syria’s civil war.

Many observers, however, believe Riyadh had grown impatient with the prime minister’s inability to contain Hezbollah, and seeks to derail the coalition government.

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