Former PM Hariri back in Lebanon after three years -UPDATED

Hariri, Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician, has been in self-imposed exile between France and Saudi Arabia since 2011.

Former PM Hariri back in Lebanon after three years -UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Former prime minister Saad al-Hariri arrived in Lebanon on Friday in his first visit to the country in three years.

Footage broadcast by local television stations showed Hariri arriving at government headquarters in Beirut, where he was due to meet Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

Hariri, Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician, has been in self-imposed exile between France and Saudi Arabia since 2011. He left the country after his government was toppled by a coalition including the Hezbollah.

The Saudi-backed politician arrived in a Mercedes with blacked out windows to the central courtyard of the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in central Beirut. He grinned widely as he walked into the Serail.

Hariri met with Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk, as well as U.S. Ambassador David Hale. There was a chorus of support from other prominent figures including Christian Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai and Shi'ite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's most influential Druze leader, who describes himself as a centrist but has switched alliance many times in the last decade, told Reuters it was "very positive":

"Facing the radicals, his presence is very important."

Political commentator Michael Young said that, since Hariri left, "a vacuum has formed in the Sunni community".

"This was becoming increasingly dangerous because this community was becoming more and more radicalised," he said. "(Hariri's) return is probably an effort with the Saudis to reassert a certain amount of control over the Sunni community."

His visit follows a deadly incursion by ISIL militants who crossed from Syria and seized the Sunni town of Arsal in the northeast last Saturday. The gunmen withdrew from the town on Wednesday after five days of battles with the army.

The incursion by militants marked the most serious spillover to date of the three-year-old Syrian civil war.

Hariri earlier this week announced that Saudi Arabia would donate $1 billion in military aid to the Lebanese security forces to help them in the fight.

"My return comes after the Saudi donation which requires seeing how it can be implemented and translated into support for the army," Hariri said on his Twitter account.

The Twitter account also said Hariri's first stop would be at the grave of his father, Rafik al-Hariri, another former Lebanese prime minister whose assassination in 2005 forced Saad to enter political life.

Hariri blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the bomb attack in Beirut that killed his father. A special tribunal in the Netherlands has been trying four members of Hezbollah in absentia for the killing.

The group, an ally of Assad, denies any involvement.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Ağustos 2014, 16:37

Muhammed Öylek

YORUM EKLE