Lebanon PM Hariri rescinds resignation: cabinet statement

Baabda (Lebanon) (AFP) –


Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Tuesday that he had withdrawn his resignation, a month after his shock announcement that he was quitting sparked a political crisis.

"The council of ministers thanks the prime minister for rescinding his resignation," Hariri said, reading from a cabinet statement issued after its first meeting since his return two weeks ago.

Hariri announced he was stepping down on November 4 in a televised address from Saudi Arabia, prompting fears Lebanon would be catapulted into a political and economic tailspin.

The resignation was seen as part of the boiling tensions between the Saudi kingdom -- which had long backed Hariri -- and its regional rival Iran.

In his resignation, Hariri lambasted Tehran and its Lebanese ally, the powerful armed movement Hezbollah, for destabilising his country and the Middle East.

He later said he would consider coming back as premier if Hezbollah stopped intervening in regional conflicts, like Syria and Yemen.

On Tuesday, Lebanon's cabinet reaffirmed its official policy of "disassociation," or remaining neutral in regional conflicts.

"The Lebanese government, in all its political components, has committed to distance itself from all conflicts, wars, and internal affairs of Arab states," according to the cabinet statement read out by Hariri.

The policy had already been adopted by Hariri's cabinet, formed in 2016 after a settlement across political divides.

That deal put Michel Aoun in the president's office and Hariri at the helm of a government that included ministers from his political rival Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is fighting alongside government forces in neighbouring Syria, has dispatched military commanders to Iraq, and is accused of backing Shiite rebels in Yemen.

Hariri resigned last month from Riyadh and spent the next two weeks there amid speculation that the Saudi authorities were holding him "hostage."

After top-level French intervention, the 47-year-old premier returned to Beirut and "paused" his resignation ahead of consultations.