Beirut – Lebanon’s Saad al-Hariri on Wednesday suspended his decision to resign as prime minister at the request of President Michel Aoun to allow for dialogue to ease a major political crisis.
Hariri made his announcement after returning to Beirut on Tuesday for the first time since his Nov. 4 shock resignation in a statement broadcast from Saudi Arabia.
He said all Lebanese parties must commit to keeping Lebanon out of regional conflicts, a reference to the powerful Iran-backed group, Hezbollah, whose regional role is a source of deep concern in Saudi Arabia.
He expressed hope that his decision would open “a new gateway for a responsible dialogue”.
“I presented today my resignation to President Aoun and he urged me to wait before offering it and to hold onto it for more dialogue about its reasons and political background, and I showed responsiveness,” Hariri said in a televised statement.
His resignation put Lebanon in the forefront of the regional tussle between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Islamist Iran, which backs Hezbollah.
Also, senior politicians close to Hariri said Riyadh forced him to quit and held him in the kingdom, an allegation Saudi Arabia and Hariri have denied.
The resignation took Hariri’s aides by surprise. His return to Lebanon followed an intervention by France.
A long-time Saudi ally, Hariri cited fear of assassination in his resignation speech, and attacked Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, for sowing strife in the Arab world.