Hariri back in Beirut, shelves resignation

Hariri back in Beirut, shelves resignation

BEIRUT - Reuters
Hariri back in Beirut, shelves resignation

Lebanon’s Saad al-Hariri yesterday shelved his decision to resign as prime minister at the request of President Michel Aoun to allow for dialogue, easing a crisis that had deepened tensions around the Middle East.

Hariri made his announcement after returning to Beirut for the first time since he quit abruptly in a Nov. 4 broadcast from Saudi Arabia.

At the presidential palace near Beirut, Hariri said he hoped this move would open “a new gateway for a responsible dialogue...that deals with divisive issues and their repercussions on Lebanon’s relations with Arab brothers.”

“I presented today my resignation to President Aoun and he urged me to wait before offering it and to hold onto it for more dialogue about its reasons and political background, and I showed responsiveness,” he said in a televised statement.

Lebanese state officials and senior politicians close to Hariri have said Riyadh forced Hariri to quit and held him in the kingdom, which Saudi Arabia and Hariri have denied.

The resignation shocked even Hariri’s aides. His return to Lebanon, late on Nov. 21 night, followed an intervention by France.

Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, had refused to accept the resignation on the grounds that Hariri declared it from abroad in “mysterious circumstances.” Aoun had said this was not in line with constitutional norms and described Hariri as a hostage in Riyadh.

Hariri thanked Aoun yesterday for what he described as his determination to protect Lebanon’s stability, his respect for its constitution, and “his rejection of departing from it under any circumstances.”

The resignation pitched Lebanon to the forefront of the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs Hezbollah.

Saad Hariri, Saad al-Hariri, Cairo,