Lebanon's Hariri Will Travel to France

Lebanon's Hariri Will Travel to France

Hariri announced his resignation while in Saudi Arabia on November 4 in a televised statement in which he railed against Riyadh's bitter foe Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Mr. Jubeir said Hezbollah, which he described as a subsidiary of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, must disarm and become a political party for Lebanon to stabilise.

That thrust Lebanon into both a domestic political crisis and the Middle East's overarching rivalry that pits Saudi Arabia and its allies against a bloc led by Iran.

Hariri acknowledged in the interview that his resignation was unconventional, adding that he was ready to return to Lebanon to formally submit it and seek a settlement with Hezbollah. The comments were his first in public since he quit from Riyadh on November 4.

There would be consultations before he returns to Beirut to build worldwide support for him to negotiate a new political deal in Lebanon, French officials said.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun tweeted on Thursday that he hoped the country's political crisis was over following Hariri's acceptance of the French invitation.

"We consider him detained, arrested" in violation of global laws, Aoun said. He said Arab mediation to resolve the crisis had failed.

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El-Rai and Saudi Charge d'Affaires Walid al-Bukhari said the kingdom is not likely to deport Lebanese citizens as punishment for the participation of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanese politics. Hariri supported the group and provided it with political cover while it supported Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his forces in the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, but because Hariri has stepped down, the group now fears that they will face strict sanctions from the US government. He added that Hariri says he is free to move and "we don't have any reason not to believe him".

El-Rai told reporters at Beirut's global airport that Hariri's return would restore normalcy in Lebanon.

France's Foreign Minister is arriving in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to meet with Hariri and Saudi officials. On Thursday he was in Germany and scheduled to visit Turkey.

"We will carry these concerns to the king and crown prince and wish well", he said.

Many fear punitive Saudi actions against Lebanon over Hezbollah.

France's foreign minister, Le Drian, said Paris was working to normalise the situation in Lebanon.

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