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Lebanese PM Hariri expected to fly to France

By PTI
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    Beirut, November 18: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is expected to fly to Paris, said on Saturday he was on his way to the airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh where he has been since his shock resignation.

    Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Courtesy: @saadhariri

      "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," Hariri tweeted.

    Lebanese President Michel Aoun had accused Saudi authorities of "detaining" Hariri and refused to accept his resignation from abroad.

    Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen, has been in Riyadh since issuing a statement on television there on November 4 that he was stepping down because he feared for his life while also accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilising his nation.

    Just before Hariri's tweet today, a source close to him said he was on the point of leaving Riyadh and had met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Hariri to Paris with his family for a "few days".

    Macron will meet Hariri at noon (1100 GMT) today as he arrives in the midst of a major political crisis, the French leader's office said today.

    Hariri's resignation was quickly perceived as the latest round in a tug of war between Saudi Arabia, his longtime sponsor, and its regional arch-rival Iran.

    It has raised deep concerns about the stability of Lebanon, which has long been riven by disagreements between Hariri's bloc and that of his chief rival, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

    Hariri's resignation announcement -- which reportedly took even some of his closest aides by surprise -- and his subsequent failure to return home to officially quit in person, fuelled speculation that he was acting under orders from his Saudi patrons.

    In his Tweet today Hariri specifically mentioned German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, without going into any more details.

    Gabriel yesterday said he shared the concern about the threat of instability and bloodshed in Lebanon and, without mentioning Saudi Arabia directly, warned against the "adventurism" behind the Lebanon crisis.

    Earlier in the week Gabriel had said: "Lebanon has earned the right to decide on its fate by itself and not become a pinball of Syria or Saudi Arabia or other national interests". 

    PTI

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