France says Lebanon's Hariri should be free to go home

AFP , Tuesday 14 Nov 2017

Edouard Philippe
File Photo: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (Reuters)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Tuesday that Lebanon's Saad Hariri must be able to return home from Saudi Arabia to end uncertainty caused by his abrupt resignation.

"What's at stake is Mr Hariri being able to return home freely to clarify his situation in line with the Lebanese constitution," Philippe told parliament, saying his resignation, announced in Saudi Arabia, had caused "a period of uncertainty".

Hariri announced he was stepping down as Lebanon's prime minister in a televised speech in Riyadh on November 4. It led to speculation that he is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia under the assertive rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

European nations and the US have not pointed the finger at Saudi authorities directly, but have expressed public concern about Hariri's absence and warned against attempts to interfere in Lebanon's fragile democracy.

On his official Twitter account, Hariri attempted again on Tuesday to dispel rumours he was being prevented from leaving.

"Guys, I am perfectly fine, and God willing I will return in the coming days. Let's calm down," he wrote.

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday that European diplomats had "close contacts" with the resigned premier and also expected him to return home "in the coming days".

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil travelled for talks on Tuesday to Brussels and Paris.

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