Lebanon PM will visit Saudi for first time since ‘resignation’


Beirut (AFP) – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he has accepted an invitation Monday to visit Saudi Arabia, returning for the first time to the kingdom where he announced a shock resignation that he later rescinded.

The November 4 resignation and his prolonged stay in Saudi Arabia stirred tensions between Riyadh and Beirut, amid suspicions he had been placed under house arrest, until France intervened and he returned to Lebanon where the announcement was reversed.

Hariri on Monday said he received the invitation at a meeting in Beirut with a Saudi envoy, Nizar al-Alula, and that he would make the trip “as soon as possible”, in a statement issued by his office.

“The main aim of Saudi Arabia is that Lebanon becomes its own master” and “totally independent”, he said.

Relations between the two countries have been strained by the competing influences in Lebanon of regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Saudi envoy’s visit comes ahead of May 6 legislative elections, Lebanon’s first since 2009 following three extensions of parliament’s mandate.

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