The Latest: Macron says he did not offer Lebanon PM ‘exile’
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the crisis in Lebanon following Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation earlier this month (all times local):
French President Emmanuel Macron says he is not offering Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri political “exile,” but wants him to come to France for a while to help calm tensions in Lebanon and dispel fears that he is a Saudi prisoner.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday during a climate meeting in Germany, Macron said that in discussions with Hariri and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “we agreed that I would invite (Hariri) to France for several days with his family.”
He said “we need to have leaders who are free to express themselves,” adding that “it’s important that (Hariri) is able to advance the political process in his country in the coming days and weeks.”
French officials say Hariri is expected in the coming days, probably directly from Saudi Arabia, where he announced his surprise resignation on Nov. 4.
Lebanese state media says a Saudi citizen thought kidnapped in the country amid a diplomatic crisis has reappeared.
The National News Agency says Ali Shamrawi handed himself over at an army post in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley after crossing back into the country from Syria.
Shamrawi’s wife, a Syrian national, reported Shamrawi missing last week. The two live in Lebanon.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s sudden resignation on Nov. 4, announced from Saudi Arabia, stirred resentment toward the Gulf kingdom, as politicians speculated that the kingdom had forced him to step down and was holding him against his will.
It was not clear if Shamrawi’s disappearance was related to the crisis.
An official in the French president’s office says Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to travel to France in the coming days with his family.
The official spoke after President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that he has invited Hariri to France. Hariri is in Saudi Arabia, where he announced his shock resignation earlier this month, and Lebanon’s president has said he is being held against his will.
The official said Macron spoke with Hariri and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman several times Tuesday and Wednesday.
A French diplomatic official said it is up to Hariri to announce his plans publicly but that he is believed to have accepted Macron’s invitation, and that he would probably come directly from Riyadh.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named.
— Angela Charlton in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Saad Hariri and his family to come to France after the Lebanese prime minister’s surprise resignation earlier this month, amid allegations that Saudi Arabia is holding him prisoner.
Macron’s office said in a statement Wednesday that he made the decision after speaking to Hariri and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Earlier Wednesday, Lebanon’s president accused Saudi Arabia of detaining Hariri and asked U.N. Security Council nations and European governments to intervene.
France, Lebanon’s onetime colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate in the crisis, and Macron paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia last week. Hariri’s family has longtime connections to France.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s older brother has broken his silence over the premier’s mysterious resignation, saying he supports his brother’s decision.
In his first public statement, Bahaa Hariri blasted Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.
The statement from Bahaa Hariri’s office was sent to The Associated Press Wednesday. In it, the elder Hariri accuses Hezbollah of seeking “to take control of Lebanon.” He also expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for “decades of support” for Lebanon’s national institutions.
Bahaa Hariri’s name has been mentioned in Lebanese media reports as a possible Saudi-backed candidate to replace his brother, who announced his resignation from the Saudi capital on Nov. 4.
In a phone call with the AP Wednesday, Bahaa Hariri declined to comment further.
Lebanon’s president says Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been detained in Saudi Arabia in an act of “aggression” against his country.
Speaking to Lebanese media executives Wednesday, President Michel Aoun expressed his frustration at the continued absence of Hariri, 12 days after he resigned from Saudi Arabia in a televised speech that stunned the country.
Aoun accused Saudi Arabia of detaining Hariri and limiting his contacts, calling it a “hostile act against Lebanon.”
He noted that as prime minister Hariri had immunity, saying his detention is in violation of international law. Saudi Arabia has denied detaining Hariri.
Aoun said Lebanon has the right to take measures to ensure Hariri is released and able to return. He said all Arab mediations have failed, adding that he has asked members of the U.N. Security Council and other European nations to get involved.
The French foreign minister is expected in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Lebanon’s president says the country’s prime minister is a detainee of Saudi Arabia after Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation from the kingdom almost two weeks ago.
Wednesday’s comments mark the first time President Michel Aoun has accused the kingdom of detaining Hariri.
Aoun, in an escalation, called it a violation of international laws. The rhetoric further deepens the crisis with Saudi Arabia.
Hariri resigned 12 days ago in a shocking televised address from Riyadh that plunged his country into turmoil. In a televised interview from the kingdom, Hariri pledged to come back but didn’t give a specific date.
The head of Future TV, affiliated with Hariri’s party, says the prime minister is expected back before Sunday, when Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo in an emergency session at Saudi Arabia’s urging.