Published: Thu, November 16, 2017
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Lebanon's Hariri to fly to France in coming days, Elysee Palace says

Lebanon's Hariri to fly to France in coming days, Elysee Palace says

Macron's call came as Lebanese President Michel Aoun said also on Wednesday that Hariri was being held against his will in Saudi capital Riyadh.

The development came as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Riyadh where he met Prince Mohammed late Wednesday.

Lebanon's Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai met on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia with Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon's prime minister from Riyadh on November 4, according to Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV.

"I want to repeat: I am fine and will return to my beloved Lebanon as I promised you, you will see", Hariri tweeted minutes after Aoun issued his statement.

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"After speaking with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, the president has invited Saad al-Hariri and his family to France", the Elysée said in a statement.

"We will not accept him remaining a hostage whose reason for detention we do not know", President Michel Aoun said in a statement, Reuters reported. Hariri, in a pre-recorded statement broadcast on Saudi TV, lashed out at Hezbollah and said he feared for his safety. He has not been back to Lebanon since, fueling speculation that he was being held against his will.

Macron has stressed that Hariri should be able to return to Lebanon to confirm, or not, his resignation.

His visit to Saudi Arabia is the first ever by a Maronite patriarch.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia had implored Israel to bomb Lebanon, in what he scornfully said was an unprecedented act by a Muslim country. And national unity is the guarantee of such security, he added.

Rai also held talks with Hariri, who during his resignation speech accused Hizballah, the powerful Shia movement that is part of his government but also close to Iran, of controlling Lebanon.

He repeated the sentiment on Tuesday, publishing his first tweet in more than a week to insist he was "perfectly fine". Riyadh is expected to discuss Iran's rising influence in the region, as well as the Lebanon crisis.

"What's at stake is Mr Hariri being able to return home freely to clarify his situation in line with the Lebanese constitution", French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told parliament in Paris.

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