Lebanon's Hariri to fly to France in coming days, Elysee Palace says

A poster depicting Lebanon

Lebanon's president on Wednesday accused Saudi Arabia of holding hostage prime minister Saad al-Hariri along with his family -the first time he has explicitly said he was being held- and called this an act of aggression.

When Saudi Arabia said last week that one of its nationals had been abducted, Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said the safety of Saudi residents and visitors was a priority for the Lebanese authorities.

Velayati said Hariri in their meeting offered to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia and he welcomed the offer. Saudi Arabia has denied detaining Hariri or coercing him to quit.

Speaking on Wednesday, Aoun also said he will not accept Hariri's resignation until he presents it himself upon his arrival in Beirut.

The senior Iranian politician added Saudi Arabia has been interfering in regional countries' affairs and been unsuccessfully seeking to disintegrate Iraq and Syria.

Velayati went on to say that Hariri's resignation is an internal issue and expressed hope that Hariri would review his decision and remain in his job.

The comments were his first in public since he quit from Riyadh on November 4.

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Bahaa Hariri's name has been mentioned in Lebanese media reports as a possible Saudi-backed candidate to replace his brother.

Macron's invitation came after he spoke to both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Hariri by telephone, the Elysee said in a statement.

Worldwide pressure has been mounting for Hariri to return to Beirut after his prolonged stay in the kingdom since he announced in a televised speech from Riyadh on November 4 that he would be stepping down, tipping his country into crisis. He rarely makes comments to the press.

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday that European diplomats had "close contacts" with Hariri and also expected him to return home "in the coming days".

"Only a pernicious outside actor, such as Iran and its surrogate, Hezbollah, can upset the balance as this group now seeks to take control of Lebanon", Bahaa Haririr's statement read in part.

Bahaa Hariri, right, and Saad Hariri, sons of slain Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, visit the scene where their father was assassinated in Beirut, Lebanon, February 19, 2005.

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