BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri, back in Beirut for the first time since his shock resignation, was expected Wednesday to explain his surprise decision and his extended stay in Saudi Arabia.
Hariri resigned in a televised address on November 4 from Saudi Arabia and then remained in Riyadh, where he spent two weeks before leaving for Paris.
His resignation shocked Lebanese, but Hariri’s prolonged stay in Saudi Arabia proved even more mysterious for many and sparked accusations that he was being held hostage in the kingdom.
He denied claims he was being detained, and promised to return to Lebanon in time to join Wednesday’s celebrations for Independence Day.
His plane touched down at Beirut airport shortly before midnight (2200 GMT), a statement from his office said, and he was expected to attend an Independence Day military parade before participating in the traditional reception at the presidential palace.
His Future Movement has called on supporters to gather at his home in downtown Beirut at 1 p.m. (1100 GMT).
He arrived in Beirut after stops in Cairo to see Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Cyprus, where he met President Nicos Anastasiades.
A dual Saudi citizen who has previously enjoyed Riyadh’s backing, Hariri resigned in a mysterious broadcast from the Saudi capital, accusing arch rival Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilizing his country.
But President Michel Aoun has yet to accept Hariri’s resignation, insisting that he present it in person once back in the Lebanese capital.
During Hariri’s two-week stay in Riyadh, Aoun accused Saudi authorities of holding him “hostage” and demanded that he enjoy freedom of movement.
After mediation efforts by Egypt and France—which held mandate power over Lebanon between the world wars—the 47-year-old premier left Riyadh on Saturday.
He headed to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and pledged he would be home by Wednesday.
“As you know I have resigned, and we will discuss that in Lebanon,” he said.
Hariri’s resignation from outside the country is unprecedented in Lebanese history.
Questions remain over whether the resignation will stand, forcing negotiations on a new government, or if he might withdraw it.
Under Lebanon’s constitution, the president is bound to accept a premier’s resignation however it is tendered, Lebanese constitutional expert Edmond Rizk told Agence France-Presse.
Although it is not outlined in the constitution, Rizk said, custom dictates “this resignation is supposed to be submitted to the president.”