The Latest: Triumphant Hariri declares “Lebanon First!”

November 22, 2017
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, arrives to attend a military parade to mark the 74th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. Hours after returning to the country following a nearly three week puzzling absence, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri participated in Independence Day celebrations Wednesday, his first official appearance since he suddenly announced his resignation from abroad, stunning the country. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon (all times local):

3:20 p.m.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has stood before thousands of supporters, pledging to stay in Lebanon and declaring: “Lebanon First.”

In a triumphant speech outside his residence, he says: “There is nothing more precious than our country.”

He spoke Wednesday after he announced from the presidential palace that he was putting his resignation on hold, responding to a request from the president to give more time for consultations.

Sounding very conciliatory he said he is putting Lebanon’s interest above everything else.

Hariri announced unexpectedly from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4 that he was stepping down from his post, triggering a political crisis in Lebanon and leading to accusations that his Saudi patrons had forced his decision.


12:50 p.m.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri says he is putting his resignation on hold following a request from the Lebanese president to reconsider.

In surprise conciliatory comments from the presidential palace Wednesday, Hariri says he is putting Lebanon’s interest first and is looking forward to a “real partnership” with Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

He says he presented his resignation to Aoun at the presidential palace, but then responded to Aoun’s request to give him more time for consultations, “hoping it will constitute a serious introduction for (national) dialogue.”

Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address from Saudi Arabia on November 4, stunning the nation and plunging the country in turmoil.

Top Lebanese officials accused Hariri’s patron, Saudi Arabia, of forcing his resignation and detaining him in the kingdom for days.


11:55 a.m.

Lebanon’s president is meeting privately with Prime Minister Saad Hariri in their first face-to-face meeting following Hariri’s shock resignation nearly three weeks ago from Saudi Arabia.

The Lebanese presidency said Wednesday the meeting was also attended by the parliament speaker. The meeting comes during national celebrations of Independence Day, hours after the return of Hariri after his absence since his resignation Nov. 4.

President Michel Aoun had said he will not consider the resignation of Hariri until he hears from him in person. Hariri resigned from Saudi Arabia, saying he was protesting the meddling of Iran and Its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, in Arab affairs. Hezbollah is a partner in the coalition government.

Hariri is expected to formally present his resignation now that he is in Beirut. But it is not clear if he will do it during the national celebrations. Hariri had said he may reconsider his resignation if there is a new “settlement” that ensures Hezbollah stays out of regional affairs.


10 a.m.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri has arrived at Lebanon’s Independence Day military parade, his first official appearance after his shock resignation nearly three weeks ago from Saudi Arabia.

Hariri arrived Wednesday before the start of the parade amid applause from the attendance. He arrived to the celebrations at a seaside boulevard in Beirut amid tight security.

Hariri arrived late Tuesday in Beirut after nearly a three-week absence that plunged the country into a political crisis. President Michel Aoun said he would not accept Hariri’s resignation until he hears from him personally.

Hariri is expected to meet with Aoun and the parliament speaker after the parade.

Hariri’s shock resignation from abroad sparked speculations he was forced to do it by his Saudi backers, who are feuding with Iran for influence in the region. Hariri’s partners in the government are the Iran-allied Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Lebanon gained independence from France 74 years ago.


8:35 a.m.

Lebanon is celebrating its Independence Day with a military parade attended by the president and the prime minister who resigned from Saudi Arabia earlier this month in a move that stunned the country.

Wednesday’s parade comes hours after Prime Minster Saad Hariri returned to Lebanon after a three-week absence that was described by Lebanese officials as forced upon him by his Saudi allies.

In his televised resignation, Hariri said he was protesting meddling in Arab affairs by Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. Hezbollah is part of the coalition government.

Hariri left Riyadh on Saturday for Paris. He traveled to Cairo before returning to Beirut late Tuesday, where he said he will discuss the reasons for his resignation. It’s not clear if he will keep or rescind his resignation.