Lebanon's Hariri Returns to Lebanon to Tackle Political Crisis

  • Hariri met with President el-Sisi during his Cairo stop
  • Hariri says will make political statement once back in Beirut
Firas Maksad, deputy executive director at Arabia Foundation, discusses Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in Beirut late on Tuesday, ending a near-three-week absence to address a political crisis that’s drawn in regional and global powers and raised concern that the fragile country would again be caught in a showdown between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Hariri, a long-time ally of Saudi Arabia, left Lebanon on Nov. 3 and announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital the next day, accusing Iran and the Hezbollah militant group backed by Tehran of destabilizing his country. Coinciding with the arrest of senior royals and businessmen in Saudi Arabia, the resignation raised questions whether the 47-year-old had been coerced into quitting. Saudi officials denied the accusations.

The Sunni Muslim leader, who also holds Saudi citizenship, is now expected to say whether he’ll resign officially or return to office. In a televised interview last week from his home in Riyadh, he said Hezbollah’s support of Iran against Saudi Arabia was a threat to Lebanon’s stability. His arrival just before midnight was reported by Al-Jazeera and Hadath TV.

The political crisis drew mediation efforts from France, with President Emmanuel Macron inviting Hariri for talks in Paris on Saturday. Hariri later said he would return to Lebanon in time for Wednesday’s Independence Day celebrations. He also held talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and said he’ll announce his political position after his return to Beirut.

Fireworks were heard in Beirut as Hariri supporters in mainly Sunni areas celebrated his impending return. More celebrations are planned for Wednesday.

Hariri has sought to dispel speculation that Saudi Arabia asked him to resign because he would not confront Hezbollah, the Shiite group that plays a key role in Lebanon’s fragile government but whose armed wing is fighting in Syria to support of fellow Iran ally President Bashar al-Assad.

The Arab League this week accused Iran of destabilizing the region and said its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, was a terrorist group.

— With assistance by Zaid Sabah

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