Lebanese PM Hariri accepts invitation to France

Posted November 17, 2017

The official was not authorized to be publicly named.

Aoun said in a statement that once Hariri returned to Lebanon he would have to stay until a new government was formed.

Aoun said Thursday that Hariri's decision to accept an invitation to travel to France could be the "start of a solution" to the crisis sparked by his resignation.

"I wait for the return of President (of the council of ministers) Hariri to decide the next move regarding the government", Aoun told journalists.

Jubeir is the highest ranking Saudi official to comment on the situation.

Aoun has refused to accept Hariri's resignation and accused the Saudis of holding him against his will.

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"Hariri's remarks on Sunday gave small hope of the possibility of his return to Lebanon..."

Posters depicting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned from his post, are seen in Beirut, Lebanon, November 10, 2017.

Asked about the date of the visit for talks, Le Drian replied: "Mr. Hariri's schedule is a matter for Mr. Hariri".

Riyadh is expected to discuss Iran's rising influence in the region at the meeting, as well as the Lebanese crisis. Lebanon's top security agencies say they have no information to share about possible plots against the premier's life.

Saudi Arabia has denied forcing Hariri to resign or detaining him.

Hariri announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia almost two weeks ago, citing concerns over the meddling of Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, in regional affairs.

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He also warned of possible Saudi action against Lebanon, including sanctions and threats to the livelihood of Lebanese workers in the Gulf, unless Hezbollah is reined in.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile ratcheted up the rhetoric against Saudi Arabia, his country's main regional rival, saying the kingdom pressured Hariri to resign in a "rare" intervention in another nation's affairs. 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 USA government.

Hezbollah, a group of Iran-backed Shiite Muslims centered in Lebanon, is the dominant political and military force in Lebanon.

Aoun is an ally of Hezbollah but had been close to Hariri before the crisis.

France, Lebanon's onetime colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate the crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron paid a surprise visit to the kingdom last week.

On Wednesday, the front page of the daily Lebanese Al-Akhbar boasted: "Saudi loses, ' hailing the French for their proposal to end the deadlock".

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