Paris : Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in France yesterday from Saudi Arabia, where his shock resignation announcement two weeks ago sparked accusations that he was being held there against his will.
Hariri is in Paris at the invitation of France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who is attempting to help broker a solution to a political crisis that has raised fears over Lebanon’s fragile democracy.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said he had spoken by telephone to Hariri, who said he would be back in Lebanon for Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.
Macron greeted Hariri warmly as he arrived for talks at the Elysee Palace hours after flying in from Riyadh with his wife.
Their eldest son Houssam joined the couple for lunch with Macron at the palace.
But the Hariris arrived in Paris without their younger children – Loulwa and Abdelaziz, born in 2001 and 2005 – who are staying in Riyadh “for their school exams”, a source close to the premier said.
“Hariri does not want to mix his children up in this affair,” the source said.
Hariri, who along with Saudi officials has repeatedly denied that he was being held under de facto house arrest in Riyadh, hammered home the message just before his departure.
“To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie,” he said in a Twitter post.
A source close to Hariri said the premier had held an “excellent, fruitful and constructive” meeting with the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before he left.
Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen who has previously enjoyed Riyadh’s backing, announced his resignation on November 4.
He said he feared for his life, accusing Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilising his country.