Middle East

Lebanon PM leaves Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Nov 18 (IANS): Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has left Saudi Arabia for France, a TV channel owned by his family announced on Saturday.

"Hariri left the Riyadh airport on his private jet with his wife and is headed for Le Bourget airport (near Paris)," the BBC quoted the Future TV as saying in its announcement.

Hariri is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and then visit other Arab capitals before a possible return to the Lebanese capital Beirut.

On Wednesday, President Macron said he had invited Hariri and his family to Paris after the French leader spoke by telephone to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The French president was later forced to clarify that he was not offering political exile, and that he expected Hariri to stay only "for a few days".

Hariri resigned unexpectedly during a visit to Riyadh on November 4. But his resignation has not been accepted.

While announcing his resignation, Hariri accused Iran of sowing "discord, devastation and destruction" in the region and said he sensed there was an assassination plot against him, the BBC reported.

Hariri earlier denied claims that he was being held hostage in Saudi Arabia, saying that it "is a lie".

Lebanese officials had earlier said Hariri was being detained in Saudi Arabia - a claim denied as "false" by Riyadh.

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

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has recalled its envoy to Berlin over comments by Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel suggesting Hariri was held against his will.

Gabriel made the remarks during a press conference with his Lebanese counterpart.

Hariri has close ties with Saudi Arabia. He holds both Lebanese and Saudi citizenship, owns properties, and Riyadh is a key backer of his political party, the Future Movement.

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