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Lebanese PM Hariri dismisses 'rumours' of detention in Saudi Arabia

Lebanon's prime minister Saad Hariri has dismissed reports about his alleged detention in Saudi Arabia as "rumours", hours before he was expected to leave the kingdom to go to France, two weeks after his shock resignation.

The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said Mr Hariri is expected in Paris's presidential palace by midday on Saturday.

Mr Hariri said in a tweet that he stayed in Saudi Arabia to consult about the future of Lebanon and its relations with the region.

"All stories spreading about my sojourn and departure or that deal with the circumstances of my family are merely rumours," he added.

His televised resignation from Riyadh on November 4 stunned the Lebanese, many of whom saw it as a sign that the kingdom - the prime minister's chief ally - had decided to drag tiny Lebanon into the Sunni kingdom's feud with the region's other powerhouse, the predominantly Shiite Iran.

The surprise resignation sparked many accusations, including from the Lebanese head of state President Michel Aoun who accused Saudi Arabia of detaining him.

Saudi officials denied the reports, adding that Mr Hariri was an ally, but railed against Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group backed by Iran, accusing the two of meddling in the region's affairs and backing anti-Saudi rebels in Yemen.

The move by Saudi-aligned Mr Hariri raised concern in a region already beset by conflict. Many feared Lebanon's delicate sectarian-based political system could be easily upended if the county is dragged into a battle for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said there will be no stability in Lebanon unless the militant group Hezbollah disarms.

"This is what we hope," Adel al-Jubeir said at a press conference in Madrid.

It was the second day in a row that the Saudi minister had criticised Hezbollah. On Thursday, he called the group a "first-class terrorist organisation" that should lay down its arms and respect Lebanon's sovereignty.

Mr Hariri is expected in Paris this weekend following a French invitation, which appears aimed at ending speculation about him being held against his will.

AP

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