Paris, Nov 17 (IANS) French President Emmanuel Macron will receive Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri here this weekend, the French government has said.
France Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was in Riyadh on Thursday to meet Hariri and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sultan, said that the Lebanese politician would be welcomed in Paris as a “friend”, Efe news reported.
Hours earlier, the Lebanese leader said from Riyadh he had accepted Macron’s invitation to visit the French capital.
Hariri has spent the last 11 days in Riyadh, from where he announced on November 4 that he was resigning as prime minister and that he would remain in the Saudi capital due to an ostensible security threat he attributed to Iran and Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim movement that is a partner in Lebanon’s coalition government.
Macron is due to receive Hariri on Saturday, according to the statement from the Elysees Palace.
Hezbollah spoke out last Friday to accuse the Saudis of holding Hariri hostage, while the Prime Minister’s own Sunni-dominated party suggested their leader was not operating under his own free will.
Western diplomats who met Hariri in Riyadh told journalists off-the-record that the Lebanese leader was acting under duress.
On Wednesday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that Hariri was being “detained” in Riyadh and described Saudi Arabia’s posture toward Lebanon as “hostile”.
Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, responded via Twitter that he was well and that he would return soon to his “beloved Lebanon”.
It was after that exchange that Macron publicly invited Hariri and his family to Paris.
France has put itself forward as a mediator in the present crisis.
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