Paris, Nov 18 (IANS) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived here on Saturday after two weeks in Saudi Arabia, a stay that sparked speculation that he was being held against his will.
Hariri, who dismissed the speculation but has not publicly explained the nature or length of his stay in Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to meet French President Emmanuel Macron later in the day.
The two leaders are expected to hold talks on a crisis sparked by Hariri’s resignation two weeks ago during a visit to Riyadh. But the resignation was not accepted, the BBC reported.
Hariri announced on November 4 from the Saudi capital that he was stepping down as Lebanon’s Prime Minister, but officials in Lebanon said that his resignation would not take effect until he delivered it in person in Beirut.
He accused Iran of sowing “discord, devastation and destruction” in the region and said he feared there was an assassination plot against him.
On Wednesday, Macron said he had invited Hariri and his family to Paris after the French leader spoke over telephone to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The French President was later forced to clarify that he was not offering political exile, and that he expected Hariri to stay only “for a few days”. France, Lebanon’s former colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate in the crisis.
Hariri is also expected to visit other Arab capitals before a possible return to Beirut.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has recalled its envoy to Berlin over comments by Germany’s Foreign Minister suggesting Hariri was being held against his will.
Sigmar Gabriel made the remarks during a press conference with his Lebanese counterpart.
“Saudi Arabia has decided to recall its ambassador to Germany for consultations and will give the German ambassador in the Kingdom a letter protesting these unfortunate and unjustified statements,” the Saudi state news agency SPA said.
Lebanese officials had earlier said Hariri was being detained in Saudi Arabia — a claim denied as “false” by Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia also denied forcing Hariri to resign in an attempt to curb the influence of its regional rival Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, which is part of a national unity government that Hariri formed last year.
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