One month later: Hariri withdraws resignation

Lebanese Prime Minister withdraws resignation following talks with rival Hezbollah.

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Ben Ariel,

Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri
Reuters

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Tuesday that he had withdrawn his resignation, a month after his initial announcement that he was stepping down, AFP reports.

Minutes after Hariri's announcement, Paris said the Lebanese premier would attend talks Friday in France on the situation in Lebanon, which U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will also attend.

"The council of ministers thanks the prime minister for rescinding his resignation," Hariri said, reading from a cabinet statement issued after its first meeting since his return two weeks ago.

Hariri announced he was stepping down on November 4 in a televised address from Saudi Arabia, a move widely seen as part of the boiling tensions between the Saudi kingdom -- a long-time Hariri backer -- and its regional rival Iran, which backs the Hezbollah terrorist group.

In his resignation, Hariri lambasted Tehran and Hezbollah for destabilizing his country and the Middle East.

He later said he would consider coming back as premier if Hezbollah stopped intervening in regional conflicts, including the wars in Syria and Yemen.

In recent days, consultations across the political spectrum have sought to find a compromise between the Saudi-backed camp led by Hariri, and Hezbollah's Iran-backed bloc, noted AFP.

On Tuesday, Lebanon's cabinet, which includes both blocs, reaffirmed its official policy of "disassociation", or remaining neutral in regional conflicts.

"The Lebanese government, in all its political components, has committed to distance itself from all conflicts, wars, and internal affairs of Arab states," according to the cabinet statement read out by Hariri.

This "disassociation" is intended to "preserve Lebanon's political and economic relations with its Arab brothers", the statement added.

Hariri's resignation raised fears that Lebanon could be plunged into chaos, and provoked widespread speculation about whether Riyadh had forced him to step down.

After Hariri’s resignation, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of forcing Hariri to resign.

France's foreign ministry, meanwhile, said Friday's meeting was intended to "support the political process (in Lebanon) at a crucial moment".

"It will send a message both to the various parties in Lebanon and to countries in the region," the ministry added, as quoted by AFP.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China -- will be represented at the meeting, along with Germany, Italy and Egypt.

French officials said the goal was to shore up Lebanese institutions, by strengthening the army and supporting Hariri's economic program, with a view to encouraging foreign investment.








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