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Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri puts resignation on hold

The announcement was the latest twist following weeks of political uncertainty in Lebanon, and came after Saad Hariri's shock resignation in Saudi Arabia.
Image: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri visits the grave of his father, assassinated former premier Rafik Hariri, on Nov. 21, 2017.Wael Hamzeh / EPA

BEIRUT — In a surprise announcement, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri told reporters Wednesday that he would delay his resignation after a request from the Lebanese president to reconsider.

“I offered my resignation to President Aoun and he asked me to delay presenting it, to allow for more consultations and deliberations, and I agreed to his request,” Hariri said from the Baabda presidential palace outside Beirut.

The announcement was the latest twist following weeks of political uncertainty in Lebanon, and came after Hariri's shock resignation during a trip to Saudi Arabia earlier this month. Some Lebanese officials accused Saudi Arabia of forcing Hariri's hand and detaining him in the kingdom for days.

Hariri said he was putting Lebanon's interest first and would continue to "protect it by all means from wars and fires surrounding us."

Earlier, Hariri took part in a military parade to mark Lebanon's independence from France 74 years ago. It was his first official appearance in the country since announcing his resignation.

He later addressed thousands of supporters who gathered outside his Beirut home.

"I am staying with you and will finish with you," he said speaking to the crowds from his balcony. "You came to tell me welcome back and I came to tell you welcome to Lebanon."

Hariri returned to Beirut late Tuesday after nearly a three-week absence. His resignation had opened a political vacuum in Lebanon, amid heightened regional tensions in an ongoing power play between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In a televised address from Riyadh on November 4, Hariri issued a vicious tirade against Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and vowed "Iran's arms in the region will be cut off."

He also said he feared there was a plot to target his life, adding that the atmosphere in the country is similar to the one that existed before his father, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

His resignation sparked speculation that he was forced to do it by Saudi Arabia as Hariri's partners in government are the Iran-allied Hezbollah.

Hariri left Riyadh on Saturday for Paris. He then traveled to Cairo before returning to Beirut.

Charlene Gubash reported from Beirut. Saphora Smith reported from London.