Lebanese PM Saad Hariri returns to Beirut for first time since shock resignation

Mr Hariri arrived in a private jet from Cyprus on Tuesday night after meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades: Reuters
Mr Hariri arrived in a private jet from Cyprus on Tuesday night after meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades: Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has returned to Beirut for the first time since he announced his resignation while in Saudi Arabia more than two weeks ago.

The shock announcement had set off speculation that Mr Hariri had been forced to step down by the Gulf kingdom and was being held there against his will.

But he left Saudi Arabia for Paris by invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, before travelling on to Beirut by way of Egypt and Cyprus.

The leader arrived in a private jet from Cyprus after meeting with the country's President, Nicos Anastasiades.

His first stop on his arrival was to visit the grave of his father, the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, before he retired to his home in central Beirut.

Mr Hariri is expected to attend Lebanon's independence day parade in the capital. He will then meet with President Michel Aoun, who has said he would not accept Hariri's resignation until he received it in person.

Mr Hariri had been leading a coalition government with his political opponents in the militant group Hezbollah when he stunned Lebanon by announcing his resignation in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia on 4 November.

His resignation thrust Lebanon to the forefront of regional tussle between the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the Shia republic of Iran, whose powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah is part of the government.

Mr Hariri, a long-time ally of Saudi Arabia, accused Hezbollah of holding Lebanon hostage and hinted there was a plot against his life.

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 — allegations Riyadh and Hariri have denied.

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

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