BEIRUT: Saad al-Hariri attended independence day celebrations in Beirut on Wednesday after returning to Lebanon for the first time since resigning as prime minister in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia.
Hariri, whose sudden resignation on Nov 4 pitched Lebanon into crisis, flew into Beirut late on Tuesday. He stood alongside President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at a military parade in central Beirut.
Lebanese state officials and senior politicians close to Hariri say Riyadh forced him to quit and held him in the kingdom, which Saudi Arabia and Hariri have denied. The resignation took even Hariri’s aides by surprise.
A long-time Saudi ally, Hariri cited fear of assassination in his resignation speech, and attacked Iran and its powerful Lebanese Shi‘ite ally Hezbollah for sowing strife in the Arab world.
The resignation thrust Lebanon to the forefront of regional tussle between the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Islamist Iran, which backs Hezbollah.
Hariri’s return to Lebanon followed an intervention by France. It is not yet clear if he will stick by his resignation or rescind it. Ahead of his arrival on Tuesday, Hariri said he would declare his “political position” in Beirut.
Aoun has said he will not consider Hariri’s resignation until he returned to Beirut and delivered it in person. Hariri is expected to meet Aoun at the presidential palace later on Wednesday.
Hariri left Riyadh for Paris at the weekend. He journeyed back to Beirut on Tuesday, stopping in Egypt and Cyprus.
The resignation shook the power-sharing deal that brought him to office last year and resulted in Aoun, a Hezbollah political ally, becoming head of state. Hezbollah, a heavily armed military and political movement, is part of the Lebanese government.