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Embattled prime minister says he'll return to Lebanon after resignation

By Sam Howard
Embattled prime minister says he'll return to Lebanon after resignation
French President Emmanuel Macron greets Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 18, 2017. Photo by EPA-EFE/Ian Langsdon

Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Meeting Saturday with French president Emmanuel Macron, Lebanon's embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he will return to his country this week.

Hariri resigned from his post two weeks ago, but Lebanese officials have not yet recognized the resignation. His announcement came during a two-week trip in Saudi Arabia and led many international observers to speculate that the Saudis were holding Hariri against his will.

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While traveling to France on Friday, though, Hariri disputed those claims on Twitter.

"To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie," Hariri wrote. "I am on the way to the airport."

In announcing his resignation Nov. 4, Hariri blamed Hezbollah and Iran and said he feared assassination. He said Iran was mongering "fear and destruction wherever present." The resignation led to heightened tensions in the Middle East, particularly among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Macron has expressed his interest in serving as a mediator in the diplomatic conflict, the New York Times reported.

CNN reported that Hariri said he would return to Lebanon by Wednesday for the country's Independence Day celebrations.

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