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Lebanon's Hariri leaves Riyadh for France: Lebanese TV

© AFP/File | Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose image is on a poster here, issued a statement on television there on November 4 that he was stepping down because he feared for his life

BEIRUT (AFP) - 

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday left Saudi Arabia for France, a television channel owned by his family said, two weeks after his shock resignation.

"Mr Hariri left Riyadh airport on his private jet with his wife and is headed for Le Bourget airport", north-east of Paris, announced Future TV around 1:20 am (2320 GMT).

A source close to Hariri confirmed the departure of the former prime minister to AFP, adding that the flight would take six and a half hours.

Earlier Hariri had tweeted he was on his way to the airport in the Saudi capital, refuting the suggestion he had been not allowed to leave the country.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun had accused Saudi authorities of "detaining" Hariri and refused to accept his resignation from abroad.

Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen, has been in Riyadh since issuing a statement on television there on November 4 that he was stepping down because he feared for his life while also accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilising his nation.

Macron will meet Hariri at noon (1100 GMT) on Saturday, the French leader's office said Friday.

Hariri's resignation was quickly perceived as the latest round in a tug of war between Saudi Arabia, his longtime sponsor, and its regional arch-rival Iran.

It has raised deep concerns about the stability of Lebanon, which has long been riven by disagreements between Hariri's bloc and that of his chief rival, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Hariri's resignation announcement -- which reportedly took even some of his closest aides by surprise -- and his subsequent failure to return home to officially quit in person, fuelled speculation that he was acting under orders from his Saudi patrons.

Future TV did not specify if Hariri and his wife were accompanied by their children, two of whom were with them in Riyadh. The eldest had left in the summer to study abroad.

© 2017 AFP