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16 November 2017, 01:37 | Tara Lloyd
Lebanon's Hariri to fly to France in coming days, Elysee Palace says
The Lebanese president has publicly acknowledged that Prime Minister Saad Hariri is being detained in Saudi Arabia along with his family, calling it "an act of aggression" against Lebanon.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to meet with Hariri and Saudi officials.
The Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement, an Iranian proxy that Riyadh considers a terrorist group, is part of the coalition government that Hariri formed previous year.
Hezbollah has said Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to resign in order to bring down his coalition government, which includes the group.
On a note released by a social network, Aoun said that the government is willing to discuss the reasons for the resignation of Hariri under the condition of not infringing upon Lebanese sovereignty.
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France, Lebanon's onetime colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate in the crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Aoun said the Saudis were also holding family members of Hariri, adding: "We have not previously asked for their return, but we have confirmed that [his family] is also detained and family members are being searched as they enter and leave the house." .
The comments were his first in public since he quit from Riyadh on November 4.
The patriarch and the king "reviewed fraternal relations between the kingdom and Lebanon and confirmed the importance of the role of different religions and cultures in promoting tolerance, renouncing violence, extremism and terrorism", the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.
The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday that European diplomats had "close contacts" with Hariri and also expected him to return home "in the coming days".
However, Riyadh's Western allies have struck a tone different from that of Saudi Arabia, appearing to throw their weight behind both Hariri and the Lebanese state, whose army is a major recipient of US aid.
The Elysee Palace's statement came shortly after it said French President Emmanuel Macron invited Hariri to France following a conversation between Macron, Hariri and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia has always been considered Hariri's main external supporter.
Saudi al-Arabiya television quoted him as saying he supported the reasons for Hariri's resignation.
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