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Hariri says he will return to Lebanon soon

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November 13, 2017

Saad Hariri says he will return to Lebanon in two or three days to confirm he has quit.

Saad al-Hariri says he will return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia in two or three days to affirm that he has quit as prime minister.

In an interview with a television station that he owns, the Saudi-allied Hariri, Lebanon's most influential Sunni Muslim politician, gave his first public comments since he read out his resignation on television from Riyadh eight days ago.

He said Lebanon was at risk of Arab economic sanctions because of what he described as interventions in Yemen and Bahrain by the powerful, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is part of the coalition government Hariri has led.

Hariri, who has not returned to Lebanon since he declared his shock resignation, said he stepped down for the sake of the Lebanese national interest, repeatedly saying the country must stick by a policy of "disassociation" from regional conflict.

"I am freely in the Kingdom, and if I want to travel tomorrow, I will travel. I have a family, and it is my right to protect them," Hariri said of his presence in Saudi Arabia.

When he resigned on November 4, he said he feared assassination. His father, a long-serving former prime minister, was killed by a bomb in 2005.

During his interview, he alluded only elliptically to the possibility that he could withdraw his resignation, saying that if he were to rescind it, Hezbollah would have to respect the policy of avoiding participation in regional conflicts. He singled out Yemen, where Saudi-led Arab forces are fighting against the Houthi movement which Riyadh says is backed by Iran.

Hariri's resignation from abroad and the week of silence that followed has destabilised his country, where Sunni, Shi'ite, Christian and Druze factions fought a civil war from 1975-1990, often backed by rival powers around the region.

After Hariri announced his resignation, Saudi Arabia accused Lebanon of declaring war against it because of Hezbollah. The Hezbollah leader on Friday said it was Saudi Arabia that had declared war on Lebanon.

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