December 12, 2017
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Saad Hariri has confirmed he will return home to Lebanon in the coming days to take part in Independence Day celebrations.

“I will return to Beirut in the coming days,” Hariri said in Paris, where he met French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday in a bid to solve the political turmoil surrounding his sudden resignation as prime minister two weeks ago.

“I will participate in the celebrations for our independence and it is there that I will make known my position on all the issues.”

Lebanon will mark its Independence Day on Wednesday, November 22.

Earlier on Saturday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri both posted statements saying Hariri would return for the occasion.

A statement on Aoun’s official Facebook page said the president received a phone call from Hariri after his arrival in France’s capital, in which the Lebanese prime minister confirmed his participation in the Independence Day celebrations. 

Berri posted a similarly worded statement on his own Facebook page.

Hariri announced his resignation as Lebanese prime minister in a televised speech on November 4, shortly after landing in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

He has not returned to Lebanon since and his trip to France’s capital, Paris, on Saturday was his first outside of Saudi Arabia since he made the announcement.

Politicians within his own Future Movement, as well his rivals, have demanded he return home to formalise his resignation.

Saudi role

On Wednesday, Aoun accused Saudi Arabia of detaining Hariri, a standpoint held by the Iran-backed Shia movement, Hezbollah, which is part of the country’s ruling coalition.

Hariri condemned Hezbollah in his resignation speech, but the group’s leader Hasan Nasrallah believes he was coerced into standing down.

A Reuters report citing “sources close to Hariri” said the Saudis were holding him for refusing to confront Hezbollah and Iranian influence in Lebanon. 

On Friday, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, during a visit to Russia, criticised groups for attempting to “dislodge the Lebanese head of state”, without naming them.

The suspicions are not limited to Lebanese politicians.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Germany after its foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, condemned Saudi interference in Lebanon’s internal politics.

Hariri rejected the claims that he was being held by the Saudis in a televised interview and later in a tweet directed at Gabriel, but analysts said his demeanour during the interview was not consistent with his statements. 

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Lebanon’s capital Beirut, said Hariri’s children had not accompanied him on the trip to Paris and that could “raise a lot of questions”.

“Some in Lebanon will definitely say that one way or the other, Saad Hariri remains some sort of a political hostage,” she said.

Hariri’s resignation throws Lebanon’s fragile political set-up into chaos as it leaves Hezbollah with the arduous task of finding a Sunni politician willing to lead a new coalition government.

Under a political deal reached last year, a coalition government was formed in Lebanon, with Hariri as prime minister and Aoun as president.

According to Lebanon’s constitution, the office of prime minister must be held by someone from the Sunni community.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab Gulf allies view Hezbollah as a “terrorist organisation” because of its role in Arab countries ranging from Syria to Yemen.

But Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said from Spain that “unless Hezbollah disarms and becomes a political party, Lebanon will be held hostage by Hezbollah and by extension Iran”. 



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