Lebanese PM Saad Hariri returning to Beirut despite his resignation

Denies that he was held captive in Saudi Arabia

By NICOLE CHAVEZ AND MARILIA BROCCHETTO , CNN
Headline Goes Here Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) at the State Department July 26, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(CNN) - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Saturday that he will return to Beirut despite his resignation two weeks ago.

"I'll be in Beirut in the next few days to participate in the Independence Day celebrations," Hariri told reporters after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Hariri added that it would be there, in Beirut, that he'll speak about the country's current political situation. He also mentioned he would be speaking to the country's President, Michel Aoun.

Macron welcomed Hariri and his family at the Elysee Palace on Saturday, where he hosted a lunch.

French officials said they hope the visit will help end the political crisis by showing Hariri is free to travel.

Hariri and his wife arrived in France on Saturday, two weeks after his shocking resignation sparked speculation that he was being held hostage in Saudi Arabia.

Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, this month, saying his life was in danger. Lebanon said it could not accept his resignation until he returned to the country.

The Lebanese President's office had hinted at the trip earlier on Saturday, saying Hariri had called Aoun and told him he will attend Lebanon Independence Day events, which will happen Wednesday.

It is not exactly clear when he will return to Lebanon.

Hariri's resignation announcement plunged Lebanon into a political crisis and stoked fears of conflict between the Saudi-backed faction of the country's government and Hezbollah, a powerful Iran-backed Shia militant group whose political wing is the most powerful bloc in Lebanon's fractured coalition government.

Aoun alleged Hariri was being "held captive" in Saudi Arabia earlier in the week.

Since he quit, Hariri has held several meetings with senior European and Arab officials, including Abu Dhabi's crown prince, but has made no public statements about them.

Hariri tweeted Friday that his stay in Saudi Arabia had been to "conduct discussions over the future situation in Lebanon" and dismissed any stories about him leaving or staying in the kingdom.

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

Five days after Hariri resigned, Macron made an unscheduled trip to Riyadh to meet with Hariri and Saudi officials.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Hariri had been invited to France and was living in "Saudi Arabia by his own will and can leave whenever he wants."

Copyright 2017 by CNN NewSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.