Lebanese PM should be allowed to 'return home freely', France says

Will Lebanese prime minister return?
Will Lebanese prime minister return?


    Will Lebanese prime minister return?


Will Lebanese prime minister return? 02:45

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)France has called for Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to be allowed to "return home freely" amid mounting speculation that he is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia following his resignation in mysterious circumstances earlier this month.

Hariri announced he was quitting his post in a televised address from the Saudi capital of Riyadh on November 4 and has not been back to Lebanon since.
In an address to the French National Assembly on Tuesday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: "The goal is for Saad Hariri to be able to return home freely to clarify his situation in accordance with the Lebanese constitution. It's also important that all Lebanese parties agree to respect civil peace."
In a tweet earlier Tuesday, Hariri declared that he would return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia within two days.
    "Everyone, I'm very well and if God wills it I'll be back in the next two days. Everyone calm down. My family is in their own country, the good Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Hariri wrote.
    Lebanon's President Michel Aoun has said that he believes Hariri is being forced to "take stances against his own free will," and has asked the Lebanese people to dismiss comments the Prime Minister makes while he is in the Kingdom.
    Last week, a high-level ministerial source told CNN that Hariri's closest allies "have no idea what's going on," and that members of his own political party believe Saudi Arabia is "restricting" his movements.
    Five days after Hariri resigned, French President Emmanuel Macron made an unscheduled trip to Riyadh to meet with Saudi officials. Shortly after, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Macron was invited by the Saudis, and that France believed Hariri had freedom of movement.
    Since he quit, Hariri has held several meetings with senior European and Arab officials including Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince, but there have been no public statements about them.
    He also gave a tense and tearful interview on Sunday to his own television station, Future TV, which analysts say sowed further doubt among viewers about his circumstances.
    Hariri unexpectedly resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was in danger, and creating a leadership vacuum in an already politically fractured country.
    He also accused Iran of meddling in the region, causing "devastation and chaos," and blamed the powerful Iranian-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah, with whom Hariri shared power, for endangering Lebanon.
    "Over the past decades, Hezbollah has unfortunately managed to impose a fait accompli in Lebanon by the force of its weapons, which it alleges is a resistance weapon," Hariri said in his resignation speech.
    "Lebanon and the great Lebanese people became in the eye of the storm and subjected to international condemnations and economic sanctions because of Iran and its arm Hezbollah."
    Iran has dismissed claims that it is meddling in Lebanese affairs, accusing the United States and Saudi Arabia of orchestrating Hariri's resignation.