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Lebanon's Hariri to return to Beirut

November 18, 2017

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri has announced on a Paris visit that he will soon travel back to his country. Hariri's recent resignation is seen as the latest fallout of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Frankreich Saad Hariri und Emmanuel Macron
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/C. Liewig

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Saturday that he intended to return to Beirut for the country's Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.

Hariri sent shockwaves through regional politics two weeks ago when he announced his surprise resignation while abroad in Saudi Arabia.

"As you know I have resigned, and we will discuss that in Lebanon with President Michel Aoun," Hariri said in Paris, having been invited by French President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of the crisis.

Lebanon has traditionally had very strong ties with its former colonial power, France. Paris has routinely provided Beirut with military and financial assistance, particularly in helping the nation rebuild after its civil war.

Hariri thanked Macron for his "generous hospitality," while France has indicated its willingness to host an international meeting on the crisis should the need arise.

Political chaos ensnares Germany's top diplomat

Prime Minister Hariri shocked the world when he declared that he was stepping down during a trip to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on November 4, and then declined to return to Lebanon. His prolonged stay in Saudi Arabia prompted many, including German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, to assert that Hariri was being held against his will.

"To say that I am being held up in Saudia Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport Mr. Sigmar Gabriel," the prime minister wrote in a rare personal tweet on Friday night.

Riyadh has recalled its ambassador to Berlin over Gabriel's comments.

Outgoing Lebanese PM Hariri arrives in Paris amidst political uncertainty at home

Proxy war

Hariri's departure is largely seen as the latest fallout from the proxy war between Sunni-majority Saudia Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran, who have already backed different sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The dispute between Hariri and President Aoun also centers around their diverging stances on the militant group Hezbollah, which has backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict, as has Iran.

Although he is a Christian, Aoun has taken a sympathetic stance on the Islamist Hezbollah. Hariri, however, who is friendlier to Saudi Arabia and has even sent his children to school there, has a darker history with the group — his father, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, was killed in a bombing blamed on Hezbollah in 2005.

President Aoun said he welcomed Hariri's comments in France, but added that "his resignation must be presented in Lebanon, and he will have to remain there until the formation of the new government."

es/tj (AFP, dpa)