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Former Lebanese PM Hariri in surprise return from exile

File picture of Saad Hariri, son of slain former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, where he attended the trial into his father’s assassination on January 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jan Hennop

Lebanese former prime minister Saad Hariri arrived in the Lebanese capital of Beirut Friday after a three-year self-imposed exile. His surprise move followed growing calls for his return as Lebanon's Sunnis confront a leadership gap.

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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 Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah.

Hariri's surprise return comes days after he announced Saudi financial backing for the fight against jihadists on the Lebanese-Syrian border. 

Speaking to reporters in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on Wednesday, Hariri said Saudi King Abdullah had pledged $1 billion to strengthen the capacity of the Lebanese armed forces "to preserve Lebanon's security".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

 

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