France's Macron Invites Lebanon's Hariri to France, but Doesn't Offer Political Exile

Saad Hariri announced his abrupt resignation 11 days ago from the Saudi capital Riyadh, propelling Lebanon to the front of a regional contest for power between Saudi Arabia and Iran

FILE PHOTO- French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shaking hands with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a press conference in Paris on September 1, 2017
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and his family to France, the French presidency said on Wednesday, seeking to defuse a brewing crisis in the Middle East.

Hariri announced his abrupt resignation as premier 11 days ago from the Saudi capital Riyadh, propelling Lebanon to the front of a regional contest for power between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"After speaking with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri the president has invited Saad al-Hariri and his family to France," the Elysee said in a statement.

A source in the Elysee palace said Hariri was expected to arrive in Paris with his family in the coming days.

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said his invitation on Wednesday to Lebanon's prime minister Saad al-Hariri to come to France was not an offer of political exile. 

"No, not at all," Macron told reporters in Bonn when asked if he was handing Hariri exile. "I hope that Lebanon will be stable, and that political choices should be in accordance with institutional rule." 

"We need a strong Lebanon with her territorial integrity respected. We need leaders who are free to make their own choices and speak freely." 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who has refused to accept his prime minister's resignation, earlier on Wednesday accused the Saudis of holding Hariri hostage - and called this an act of aggression.

Saudi Arabia has denied detaining Hariri or coercing him to quit.

France's foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was due in Riyadh on Wednesday evening.

The Elysee palace statement referred to Hariri as Lebanon's prime minister and gave no explicit reason for Macron's invitation.