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After Macron meeting, Hariri says will clarify position in Lebanon

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on 18 November 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın/Anadolu Agency]
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on 18 November 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın/Anadolu Agency]

Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon's prime minister this month while in Saudi Arabia, said on Saturday he would clarify his position when he returns to Beirut next week.

Hariri's resignation on November 4 threw Lebanon into political crisis and put it centre-stage in the Middle East's overarching rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and its allies and a bloc led by Shia Iran.

"With regard to the political situation in Lebanon, I will go to Beirut in the coming days, I will participate in the independence celebrations, and it is there that I will make known my position on these subjects after meeting President (Michel) Aoun," Hariri said after holding talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Hariri declined to take questions, but is set to return to Beirut by Wednesday when Lebanon celebrates its independence day. He thanked Macron, who has been mediating as part of French efforts to try to ease tensions across the region, for his help.

Macron had leveraged France's close relations with both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to secure a deal that saw Hariri travel to Paris and open the door to a resolution of the crisis.

Read more: Hariri warns Lebanon faces Arab sanctions risk, to return in days

Hariri, who arrived at his residence in Paris in the early hours of the morning, told Aoun in a phone call from Paris that he would be in Lebanon on Wednesday for the celebrations, the Lebanese president said on Twitter.

"Lebanon is being shaken so it's important Hariri comes to Paris for us to work with him on the best way out of the crisis," said a senior French diplomat.

We're trying to create the conditions for a de-escalation in the region. We want to avoid a proliferation of crises that could get out of control.

Hariri's abrupt resignation and continued stay in Saudi Arabia has caused fears for Lebanon's stability.

Okab Saqr, a member of parliament for Hariri's Future Movement, said after Hariri's visit to France he would have "a small Arab tour" before traveling to Beirut.

A French presidential source said Macron had reiterated that Paris wanted Hariri to return to Lebanon to ensure the country's political system continued to function and that it was imperative it remained "disassociated" from regional crises.

The source said Macron would continue to be active on the dossier in the coming days and that France was considering whether to host a meeting of the International Lebanon Support Group to discuss the political crisis.

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