Lebanese PM Hariri visits France, promises to clarify resignation statement on his return to Lebanon

Speaking after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Lebanese PM Saad Hariri has announced he will return to his country within the next few days, following his surprise resignation two weeks ago.

"I will go to Beirut in the coming days. I will participate in the Independence Day celebrations [on Wednesday], and it is there that I will make known my position on these subjects after meeting President [Michel] Aoun," he told reporters Saturday.

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Hariri arrived in Paris with his wife on his private jet in the early hours of Saturday morning, where they later met and had lunch at the Elysees Palace with Macron and Macron’s family before the two leaders held their own meeting.

Macron welcomed Hariri with a tweet reading, “hello” in Arabic, while Hariri tweeted to thank Macron for his support.

Hariri abruptly announced his resignation in a televised statement from Riyadh on November 4, blaming Iran for having a destabilizing influence in Lebanon and the Middle East and saying that his life was in danger. This led some to speculate the statement had been made under duress while the PM was in Saudi Arabia, a claim repeated by Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Hariri has denied these claims.

"To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie," Hariri said in a Twitter post.

An AFP source said Hariri’s two youngest children, Loulwa and Abdelaziz, remain in Saudi Arabia where they are due to sit their school exams.

The Lebanese government has responded that it will not consider Hariri’s resignation until he is back in the country, with President Aoun adding that Hariri must stay in Lebanon while a new government is formed.

Hariri’s surprise resignation has caused something of a political crisis in the country, where a delicate power-sharing arrangement has existed between Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. Hariri is a Sunni, while President Aoun is a Christian allied with the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

France has attempted to play a mediating role in the crisis, with Macron going to see Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh earlier this month.