I'll be in Lebanon to mark Independence Day on Wednesday — Hariri

I'll be in Lebanon to mark Independence Day on Wednesday — Hariri

It's Hariri's first appearance outside Saudi Arabia since he made a strange resignation announcement Nov. 4 that some feared was Saudi-engineered.

Addressing a congregation of worshipers in Tehran on Friday, Ayatollah Emami Kashani pointed to Lebanon's latest developments and said the Saudi regime, whose king calls himself the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has hatched plots against some Muslim countries, including Lebanon.

Ousted Caracas mayor flees house arrest: Ousted Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma said he plans to take his fight against Venezuela's socialist government to Europe after he escaped house arrest and fled to Colombia. "He (Hariri) will come to France and the prince has been informed", Le Drian told reporters, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with whom he held talks the night before. Top officials in Lebanon accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri against his will and forcing his resignation. "I am on the way to the airport, Mr. Sigmar Gabriel", he said on Twitter.

"We're trying to create the conditions for a de-escalation in the region". He reportedly added: "Another trouble spot is the last thing that people in the Middle East need now".

Hariri arrived Saturday in France on Macron's invitation, and pulled up to the Elysee Palace courtyard in a convoy before being greeted by the French leader on the steps.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also spoken repeatedly and with pride about growing rapprochement with "moderate Arab states" without naming them, although he is assumed to be referring to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies.

Iran-allied rebels in Yemen fired a ballistic missile that was intercepted outside the Saudi capital earlier this month.

Many in Lebanon and abroad, however, believe that Hariri was forced to resign by the Saudi authorities and was held in the kingdom against his will, as part of a major ploy against Iran's influence in the religiously divided Lebanon.

Ahead of Hariri's departure, Aoun - an ally of Hezbollah - welcomed the trip to Paris, expressing hope that it was the "start of a solution".

Macron has expressed his interest in serving as a mediator in the diplomatic conflict, the New York Times reported. He has consistently rejected reports of his detention.

In this context, comments by Israel's military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot to Elaph, a British-based news website founded by a Saudi businessman, caused a stir on Thursday.

A French presidential source said Macron had reiterated that Paris wanted Hariri to return to Lebanon to ensure the country's political system continued to function and that it was imperative it remained "disassociated" from regional crises. The German foreign ministry quoted Gabriel on its website as telling his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil "Germany stands firmly by Lebanon's side".

Macron has stressed that Hariri should be able to return to Lebanon to confirm or withdraw his resignation in person.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he will return to Lebanon for Wednesday's Independence Day celebrations and explain his situation, after his shock resignation announcement in Saudi Arabia sparked political turmoil.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Hariri was seen by some as engineered by Riyadh, raising concerns that it could drag Lebanon into a battle for regional supremacy.

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