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Lebanon PM Hariri Makes 2nd Trip to Saudi Arabia since Shock Resignation

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Local Editor

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri headed to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the second time since his shock resignation in the kingdom last year.

Lebanese PM Saad Hariri

On 4 November, Hariri announced he was stepping down in a televised address from Riyadh, sparking concerns that he was being detained against his will.

After French mediation, however, he rescinded his resignation the following month and was named premier for a third term after Lebanon's first parliamentary polls in nine years.

"Hariri headed to Saudi Arabia for a visit expected to last a few days," his office said in a statement late Tuesday.

It is the premier's second visit to Saudi Arabia since his detention in Riyadh after an earlier trip in February.

His Future Movement party lost a third of its seats on 6 May, when voters reinforced the strength of Hezbollah and its allies.

Hariri, 48, is in the process of forming a new coalition cabinet - a tedious task that requires meeting the demands of various political parties that will take part in the government. Critics pointed that Tuesday's visit comes at an unusual time for a designated prime minister.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that Paris had intervened to free Hariri, taking personal credit for averting the crisis, which he said would have led to a civil war in Lebanon.

"I remind you that a prime minister was held in Saudi Arabia for several weeks," he said in an interview with broadcaster BFM TV.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday called Macron's comments "untrue".

Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016 and served his first term from 2009 to 2011.

Saudi Arabia has long been a key ally of Hariri. But the prime minister's relationship with Riyadh soured after Saudi Arabia suspended a $3bn aid package to the Lebanese army in 2016.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team