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

Relations between the countries have been strained by competing influence of Iran in Lebanon

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is to travel to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for the first time since his resignation in the kingdom sparked a crisis, a government source said.

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 to quit was reversed.

“Mr. Hariri’s visit to Saudi Arabia begins on Wednesday,” the government source toldAFP, without providing any further details.

Another source close to the Lebanese prime minister said he would hold talks with Saudi King Salman and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On Monday, Hariri received and accepted an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia during a meeting with an envoy from the kingdom, Nizar al-Alula.

Alula also met with President Michel Aoun, who told him of Lebanon’s desire to “maintain the best relations” with the oil-rich Gulf state.

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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