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Hariri In Paris As France Tries To Mediate Crisis

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri (center) and his wife, Lara (left), leave after a lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron (right) and his wife, Brigitte (second from right), at the Elysee Palace in Paris on November 18.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in France from Saudi Arabia on November 18 and held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron amid a political crisis.

Hariri told Lebanese President Michel Aoun in a phone call from Paris that he would be in Lebanon on November 22 for Independence Day celebrations, Aoun said on Twitter.

Hariri said after holding talks with Macron in Paris, "With regard to the political situation in Lebanon, I will go to Beirut in the coming days, I will participate in the independence celebrations, and it is there that I will make known my position on these subjects after meeting President (Michel) Aoun," .

Macron embraced Hariri as he welcomed him outside the presidential Elysee Palace before he accompanied him inside for talks.

Macron said on November 17 he would welcome Hariri to Paris as Lebanon's prime minister and expected him to return to Beirut in the "coming days, weeks."

Macron is trying to mediate in the region to avert a proxy conflict in Lebanon between Iranian-backed and Saudi-backed camps.

Hariri announced his resignation on November 4 in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia, throwing Lebanon into a serious political crisis.

Aoun refused to accept it, accusing the Saudis of holding him against his will.

Before leaving Riyadh, Hariri dismissed as "rumors" reports about his alleged detention in the kingdom.

Okab Saqr, a member of parliament for Hariri's Future Movement, had said that after Hariri's visit to France he would have "a small Arab tour" before traveling to Beirut.

The crisis has thrust Lebanon into the regional rivalry pitting Saudi Arabia and its allies against a bloc led by Iran, which includes the heavily armed Lebanese Shi'ite Hizballah group.

In his televised resignation announcement, Hariri cited Iran and Hizballah for meddling in Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. He also said he was afraid for his life.

Shortly before he left Riyadh, Saudi Arabia asked its citizens for the second time in less than two weeks to leave Lebanon "as soon as possible" given the "circumstances" there.

The Arab League is due to hold a meeting on November19 in Cairo at Saudi Arabia's urging where the Lebanon crisis and Iran's role in the region are expected to be discussed.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa