Hariri back in Lebanon for first time since quitting as PM

Sudden resignation thrust Lebanon to fore of regional tussle between Saudi Arabia and Iran

 

Saad al-Hariri returned to Beirut this evening for the first time since he resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia and plunged his country into political crisis.

Mr Hariri’s sudden resignation on November 4th thrust Lebanon to the forefront of a regional tussle between the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shia Islamist Iran, whose powerful Lebanese ally Hizbullah is part of the government.

Mr Hariri was greeted by members of the security forces as he disembarked from a jet at Beirut airport, live footage of his arrival showed.

Mr Hariri, a long-time ally of Saudi Arabia, cited fear of assassination and meddling by Iran and Hizbullah in the Arab world in his resignation speech. The move caught even his aides off guard, and politicians close to him say Riyadh forced him to quit and held him in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh and Mr Hariri himself have denied this.

Refused to accept resignation

Lebanese president Michel Aoun has refused to accept the resignation until Mr Hariri returns to present it in person.

Earlier, Mr Hariri met Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, saying after the meeting he would announce his “political position” in Lebanon.

In a November 12th interview from Saudi Arabia with Future TV, a station affiliated with his political party, Mr Hariri said he would return to Lebanon to confirm his resignation.

But he also held out the possibility of withdrawing it if Hizbullah respected Lebanon’s policy of staying out of regional conflicts such as that in Yemen. – Reuters