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Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Egypt for talks with Sisi

21 November 2017

Hariri's resignation on November 4 threw Lebanon into political crisis and put it center-stage in the Middle East's overarching rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and its allies and a bloc led by Shi'ite Iran.

The French president has also telephoned his counterparts in the United States and Egypt, Donald Trump and Sisi, as well as the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss "the situation in the Middle East". Hariri's trips to Paris and Cairo may be an indication of Riyadh's readiness to negotiate an accommodation, most likely one built around Iran reducing its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, where the Saudis have found themselves increasingly caught in a military quagmire, say analysts.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in separate telephone calls that it was crucial to to preserve the stability in Lebanon.

Egypt tries to defuse Lebanon's political crisis created by Hariri's resignation, which has not yet been officially accepted by Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Lebanon's Saad al-Hariri arrived in Cyprus for a meeting with its president on Tuesday, Hariri said on his Twitter feed, ahead of his expected return to Beirut to take part in independence day celebrations on Wednesday.

In his resignation speech he accused Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilising his country. "We want to avoid a proliferation of crises that could get out of control". Aoun, a Christian, is a political ally of Hezbollah.

A French presidential source said Macron had reiterated that Paris wanted Hariri to return to Lebanon to ensure the country's political system continued to function and that it was imperative it remained "disassociated" from regional crises. Hariri's government, a power-sharing coalition formed past year, includes Hezbollah.

Taking on Iran in Lebanon is a risky gambit by the crown prince, which could backfire, according to other analysts. He said Tehran was sowing "chaos and destruction" in the region.

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Egypt for talks with Sisi