Hariri to return to Paris Friday for Lebanon meeting

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will attend talks in Paris Friday on the crisis triggered by his recent resignation announcement to be attended by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, France said Tuesday.

"The aim is to support the political process (in Lebanon) at a crucial moment," the French foreign ministry said, minutes after Hariri announced he had rescinded his resignation.

"It will send a message both to the various parties in Lebanon and to countries in the region," the ministry added.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China -- will be represented at the meeting, along with Germany, Italy and Egypt.

French officials said the goal was to shore up Lebanese institutions, by strengthening the army and supporting Hariri's economic programme, with a view to encouraging foreign investment in the country.

Hariri announced he was stepping down on November 4 in a surprise televised address from Saudi Arabia that sent tremors through Lebanon, long a proxy battleground for regional powers.

His resignation was seen as part of an intensifying power struggle between the Saudi kingdom -- which had long backed Hariri -- and its regional rival Iran, which backs the armed organisation Hezbollah.

After announcing he was bowing out Hariri, who accused Hezbollah of destabilising Lebanon, remained in Riyadh, sparking speculation that he was being held hostage by the Saudis.

French President Emmanuel Macron intervened to try defuse the crisis, inviting Hariri to Paris for talks, after which he returned to Beirut to a hero's welcome.

Two weeks later, following consultations with the various political groups in Lebanon, Hariri announced Tuesday he was withdrawing his resignation.

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