Lebanon's Saad Hariri to visit Saudi Arabia for first time since 'resignation'

The Lebanese prime minister said he would make the trip 'as soon as possible'

epa06566865 Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (R) meets with Saudi envoy Nizar al-Aloula (L) at the Government Palace in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, 26 February 2018. Nizar al-Aloula arrived in Lebanon where he will deliver a message from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to President Michel Aoun. Ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were strained in the wake of Hariri's November 2017 resignation through a televised speech from Riyadh, which was later withdrawn.  EPA/WAEL HAMZEH
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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that he would "soon" visit Saudi Arabia, returning for the first time to the country where he announced his resignation that he later rescinded.

Mr Hariri met with Nizar Al Aloula, the Saudi envoy, at the Grand Serail in Beirut on Monday, during which the latter extended an invitation to the premier to visit Saudi Arabia.

The November 4 resignation and Mr Hariri's prolonged stay in the kingdom stirred tensions between Riyadh and Beirut, amid suspicions he had been placed under house arrest.

Saudi officials and Mr Hariri — who holds both Saudi and Lebanese citizenships — denied reports that he was forced to stay in the country. He returned to Lebanon on November 21.

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The Lebanese prime minister said he would make the trip "as soon as possible", according to a statement issued by his office.

"Saudi Arabia's main goal is for Lebanon to be its own master, and it is keen on Lebanon's full independence," Said Mr Hariri on Twitter late Monday. "We will see how to co-operate with the kingdom on upcoming international conferences."

Following their meeting, Mr Al Aloula and Mr Hariri, along with a delegation, visited the burial site of Mr Hariri's father, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in a 2005 car bombing in Beirut.

“Martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will remain a national and Arab symbol and Lebanon will return as the martyr wanted it, free and a beacon to the world,” said the Saudi envoy.

Mr Al Aloula's visit comes ahead of May 6 legislative elections, Lebanon's first since 2009 following three extensions of Parliament's mandate.

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