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Lebanon's Hariri accepts invite to come to France - diplomat

17 November 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement on Wednesday that he had invited Hariri to France after speaking to him and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His resignation was not accepted by President Michael Aoun, leaving his government and the nation awaiting his return.

Bahaa Hariri, in a statement to the Associated Press, said he supported his brother's resignation and thanked Saudi Arabia for "decades of support" for Lebanon's institutions.

Hariri also left open the possibility that he may withdraw his resignation if certain conditions are met - in particular an end to the involvement of Lebanon's powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah in regional conflicts.

Earlier Wednesday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun alleged Hariri was being "held captive" in Saudi Arabia, and that Lebanon couldn't make any decision about Hariri's resignation until he returned.

He also warned of possible Saudi action against Lebanon, including sanctions and threats to the livelihood of Lebanese workers in the Gulf, unless Hezbollah is reined in.

He branded the detaining of Hariri, who is still legally the prime minister of Lebanon (you can't resign long distance in Lebanese law), "a demonstration of enmity" against Lebanon. Hezbollah has said Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to resign in order to bring down his coalition government, which includes the group.

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

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There would be consultations before he returns to Beirut to build global support for him to negotiate a new political deal in Lebanon, French officials said.

Aoun has previously said he will not accept Hariri's resignation until he returns to Beirut to tender it and explain his reasons.

It was the first time Aoun describes Hariri as a detainee.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that Hariri was free to leave "when he pleases".

"Whenever we see a problem, we see Hezbollah act as an arm or agent of Iran and this has to come to an end", he said after meeting his French counterpart in Riyadh.

But Bassil, who is on a European tour seeking support for his country amid the crisis, said that Lebanon also has the option of resorting to worldwide law, without elaborating.

It was not immediately clear if Bassil would attend the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo.

Lebanon's Hariri accepts invite to come to France - diplomat