After resignation and extended absence Hariri leaves Cairo for home

By REUTERS
November 21, 2017 22:11

"My message to the Arab brothers: Dealing with Lebanon requires a lot of wisdom and rationalism, and the alternative to that is pushing it towards the fire," Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said.

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After resignation and extended absence Hariri leaves Cairo for home

French President Emmanuel Macron and Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon's prime minister while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, react on the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 18, 2017. . (photo credit: BENOIT TESSIER /REUTERS)

Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as Lebanese prime minister on Nov. 4, left Cairo for Lebanon on Tuesday to return to Lebanon after a brief meeting with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

He went immediately to the presidential palace, the Egyptian press office said. A message on Hariri's Twitter account said the meeting would be followed by a dinner in his honor.

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"Saad Hariri arrived in Cairo on Tuesday evening from Paris to meet President Sisi, and he is scheduled to return to Lebanon on Wednesday," MENA state news agency said.

Sisi, a former military commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy, has stressed his backing for Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab allies who have helped with aid since he ousted a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. But he has also said Egypt is not considering measures against Hezbollah despite Saudi demands for sanctions against the Lebanese group. He has received calls from Macron and from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over the crisis.

Hariri announced his resignation during a visit to Saudi Arabia but has yet to return home. He has said he will clarify his position once he returns to Lebanon.

His surprise resignation has triggered a political crisis in Lebanon, which finds itself in the midst of a bitter regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"My message to the Arab brothers: Dealing with Lebanon requires a lot of wisdom and rationalism, and the alternative to that is pushing it towards the fire," Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said in a televised speech on the eve of Lebanese independence day.

Aoun's warning followed an Arab League meeting on Sunday whose closing communique condemned the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah for "supporting terrorism" and noted that it was part of the Lebanese government.

The Arab League meeting was called at the behest of Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies as they seek to counter Iran. Saudi Arabia this month accused the Lebanese government of declaring war on it because of Hezbollah.

Egypt's presidency said Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, also spoke with Sisi to discuss developments. Sisi and Aoun "underscored the importance of preserving Lebanon's stability as well as upholding Lebanon's national interest."

Hariri had been in Paris since Saturday when he met French President Emmanuel Macron. He has said he will return to Lebanon by Wednesday for the country's Independence Day celebrations, where he said he will clarify his position. His surprise resignation announced from Riyadh triggered a political crisis in Lebanon's power-sharing government and drew his country deeper into a regional power struggle between Sunni kingdom Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Islamist Iran.

A Saudi ally, Hariri said he quit over interference in Lebanon by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, a Shi'ite group, which is part the government. But Aoun and others say Hariri may have been coerced into resigning.


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