Saad Hariri arrived at the residence of the French President yesterday and said he would make his position clear when he returns to Lebanon which is now expected to be on Wednesday in time for Lebanon’s independence-day celebrations.
Hariri was speaking after holding talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and following speculation that he was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will. On November 5th, Hariri made a shock resignation in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, pointing the finger at Iran and saying that his life was in danger.
The statement by Prime Minister fuelled speculation that Saudi Arabia was holding him against his will and that the Kingdom was getting ready to launch a military attack against the Iran back Shia militia group, Hezbollah. Riyadh asked all its citizens to leave Lebanon and accused Iran of being behind the firing of a cruise missile aimed at its international airport in the capital and fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Lebanon maintains a delicate sectarian balance after balance after Sunnis, Shias, Christian and Druze fought a civil war between 1975 and 1990, with factions often backed by regional rivals. Hairi’s government which includes Hezbollah was formed last year.
Paris has intensified its rhetoric over Iran’s regional activities. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking alongside his Saudi counterpart, denounced Tehran’s “hegemonic temptations”. Iran responded by accusing France of taking sides and Macron on Friday said Iran should clarify its ballistic missile program. That was met by a rebuke in Tehran.
On Saturday, Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, said Macron should stay out of its affairs.