Macron's Invite to Hariri Launches new French Strategy in the Middle East

Macron's Invite to Hariri Launches new French Strategy in the Middle East

Hariri is expected then to flying home to Beirut to officially submit his resignation.

The Elysee Palace's statement came shortly after it said French President Emmanuel Macron invited Hariri to France following a conversation between Macron, Hariri and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

His decision to quit threw Lebanon into a political crisis.

Hezbollah accused the kingdom of seeking to sow chaos in Lebanon.

Hariri announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia almost two weeks ago, citing concerns over the meddling of Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, in regional affairs.

"We are supportive of Prime Minister Saad Hariri but we are against Hezbollah's takeover of Lebanon", Jubeir said.

Hariri became Lebanon's prime minister past year in a power-sharing deal in which Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, became head of state.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is now in Saudi Arabia on a two-day trip, during which he was initially expected to meet Hariri.

"I wait for the return of President (of the council of ministers) Hariri to decide the next move regarding the government", Aoun said during a meeting with journalists.

The country suffered a sectarian civil war between 1975 and 1990, and has feared that the conflict in neighbouring Syria could spark new trouble.

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Saudi officials denied the reports, adding that Mr Hariri was an ally, but railed against Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group backed by Iran, accusing the two of meddling in the region's affairs and backing anti-Saudi rebels in Yemen.

France, Lebanon's onetime colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate the crisis.

"We consider him to be held and detained, contrary to the Vienna Convention", Aoun said in a tweet on the official Lebanese presidency account.

The announcement comes 11 days after Hariri, on a trip to Saudi Arabia, announced he was resigning his office, saying that his life was in danger.

Riyadh has dismissed speculation that Hariri was being held against his will as "preposterous".

Earlier a member of his party said Hariri will leave Riyadh for France on Friday, but will not return directly to Beirut after the visit.

Hariri hinted in the interview that he could go back on his resignation if Hezbollah stopped its involvement in regional conflicts.

If this were to indeed happen, not only would France gain a regional foothold by which it could exert its influence and negotiate a partnership with Iran, but it would also spell long-term trouble for Saudi, who is now engaged in proxy wars with Iran in Yemen and Syria to determine the regional hegemon.

Le Drian raised concern over Iran's role in the region.

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