Hariri to arrive in France Saturday to meet Macron: presidency
Lebanese leader Saad Hariri will arrive in France on Saturday and meet President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, the French presidency said Thursday.
Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon's prime minister during a visit to Saudi Arabia, is travelling to France at the invitation of the French government in a move that diplomats hope will ease regional tensions.
The French president's office said on Wednesday that Hariri and his family had been invited to France for a "few days" but that did not mean he would stay there in exile.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir confirmed Thursday that Hariri was "free to leave" Riyadh.
Hariri's decision to accept the French invitation was the "start of a solution" to the crisis sparked by his surprise resignation, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Thursday.
Aoun has yet to accept the resignation, saying he was waiting for the premier to return to Lebanon.
The development comes after great speculation about whether the premier was being detained in Saudi Arabia, with Aoun going so far as referring to him as a "hostage" despite denials by the 47-year-old Hariri himself.
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.
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