Lebanon’s Hariri heading to Egypt amid political tensions

Lebanon’s Hariri heading to Egypt amid political tensions

PARIS – The Associated Press
Lebanon’s Hariri heading to Egypt amid political tensions

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri headed from France to Egypt on Nov. 21, a French official said, as Lebanon awaits his return and clarity about his political future.

Earlier in the day, Hariri apparently went for a morning jog, leaving his residence in a high-end Paris neighborhood wearing a sweatshirt, running shoes and shorts - despite the 9 C (48 F) temperature.

He soon returned, then departed again, this time surrounded by bodyguards and escorted by a police convoy. His office said he was going to Egypt to meet with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

A French official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, later confirmed that Hariri had left France.

The Lebanese politician’s whereabouts have prompted intense scrutiny since he made a surprise resignation announcement from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4, unleashing a political crisis in Lebanon.

In Lebanon, the army chief called on troops to stand firm against any attempt to incite strife country amid the crisis triggered by Hariri’s resignation. Gen. Joseph Aoun’s comments came in a memorandum to the soldiers on the eve of Independence Day.

The military "should firmly confront any attempt to take advantage of the current circumstances with the aim of inciting strife," Aoun said. He also called on troops be on high alert along the border with Israel, to face any "threats or violations by the Israeli enemy."

Hariri came to France on Saturday on the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron, trying to calm tensions and avert a proxy conflict between Saudi-backed and Iranian-backed camps in Lebanon.

After meeting Macron, Hariri said he would be home in Lebanon in time for Wednesday’s Independence Day celebrations, where he said he would "declare my political stance."

"As you know, I have resigned and we will talk about this matter in Lebanon," Hariri said after thanking Macron, who he added "expressed pure friendship toward me that I will never forget."

Hariri’s political status remains murky. Lebanon’s president, Michael Aoun, refused to accept the resignation and accused the Saudis of holding Hariri against his will.

Before leaving Riyadh, Hariri dismissed reports about his alleged detention in the kingdom as "rumors."

The Independence Day ceremony is usually headed by the president, prime minister and parliament speaker, and Hariri’s presence could help calm uncertainties.

Saad al-Hariri, al-Hariri, Michel Aoun,