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Lebanese prime minister reverses decision to resign

Saad Hariri had surprised the world by announcing his resignation on live television

    Saad Hariri, who attended a cabinet meeting with President Michel Aoun (right) on Tuesday, has announced he was not resigning
    Saad Hariri, who attended a cabinet meeting with President Michel Aoun (right) on Tuesday, has announced he was not resigning Getty Images

    Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has reversed his resignation after striking a deal with coalition partners to stay out of wider disputes in the Middle East.

    Mr Hariri caused global astonishment last month when he used a televised address from Saudi Arabia to tell his people he would be standing down.

    At the time he accused Iran of bringing “discord, devastation and destruction” to the region.

    But on Tuesday the prime minister and his coalition government, which includes Iranian-backed Hezbollah, reaffirmed a state policy of staying out of conflicts in Arab states, bringing to an end a month of turbulence for Israel’s northern neighbour.

    At his first cabinet meeting since quitting, Mr Hariri said: “All (the government’s) political components decide to dissociate themselves from all conflicts, disputes, wars or the internal affairs of brother Arab countries, in order to preserve Lebanon’s economic and political relations.”

    According to insiders, Mr Hariri, a long-term ally of Saudi Arabia, had come under pressure from the oil-rich nation to resign.

    Though both sides deny it, Lebanese officials say the Saudis effectively put him under house arrest until France successfully intervened, allowing him to return to Lebanon.

    Saudi concern over the influence wielded by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah over other Arab states was widely seen as the root cause of the crisis, which raised fears for Lebanon’s economic and political stability.

    Mr Hariri, a wealthy Sunni businessman with long ties to the kingdom, had denounced Iran during his resignation speech and said he was outside Lebanon because he feared for his family’s safety.

    His father, an ex-prime minister, was assassinated in 2005.

    By standing down, Lebanon was thrust to the forefront of the tense standoff between Saudi and Iran, which continues to play out in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

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