Saad Hariri returns to Lebanon after shock resignation

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BEIRUT: Saad Hariri returned to Lebanon on Tuesday night for the first time since he resigned as the country’s prime minister earlier this month in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia.

Hariri was greeted by members of the security forces as he disembarked from a jet at Beirut airport, live footage of his arrival showed.

Live TV showed Hariri visiting the grave of his father after his arrival in Beirut, then travelling to his residence.

Hariri unexpectedly resigned on November 4 during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying he feared his life was in danger.

The resignation sparked speculation he was being held hostage in Saudi Arabia, something Riyadh and Hariri denied.

Hariri visited Cairo and Cyprus on Tuesday before flying to Beirut. On Saturday, he arrived in France, where he announced he would “be in Beirut in the next few days” to take part in Independence Day celebrations, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

Hariri’s resignation announcement plunged Lebanon into a political crisis, stoking 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.

Hariri is part of a unity government under President Michel Aoun that also includes rival political factions such as those supported by Hezbollah, a popular Shia group which is represented in the Lebanese parliament and has a strong armed wing.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has previously said he was sure Hariri was forced to resign as part of what he called Saudi Arabia’s policy of stoking sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Last week, in his first public comments since his shock resignation, Hariri said he had “complete freedom” in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking on Future TV, a station affiliated with his political party, Hariri said that upon his return to Lebanon he would confirm his resignation in accordance with the country’s constitution.