Lebanon’s Saad al-Hariri said on Wednesday he would hold off presenting his resignation as prime minister in response to a request from President Michel Aoun to allow more dialogue.
“I presented today my resignation to President Aoun and he urged me to wait before offering it and to hold onto it for more dialogue about its reasons and political background, and I showed responsiveness,” Hariri said in a televised statement.
He later told hundreds of supporters gathered outside of his house in Beirut that he would stay in power for them.
“I am staying with you and will continue with you…to be a line of defence for Lebanon, Lebanon’s stability and Lebanon’s Arabism,” he said.
The official returned to Beirut on Tuesday night for the first time since his controversial November 4 resignation that threw Lebanon into a political crisis and placed it at the centre of a regional rivalry between the kingdom and Iran.
President Aoun previously indicated he would refuse to recognise the resignation, which Hariri made in Saudi Arabia, until it was presented in person.
Aoun’s decision echoed the sentiment in Beirut where some accused Saudi Arabia of pressuring Hariri to resign and then holding him hostage.
Earlier on Tuesday, Hariri travelled to Cyrpus to meet with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. He had previously been in Egypt for talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi where he said he would announce his “political position” when he returned to Lebanon.
Prior to this, he left Saudi Arabia for Paris for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Hariri warned in interviews after his resignation that Lebanon risked Arab sanctions and other repercussions due to the actions of Shia militant group Hezbollah, an Iranian ally that has been actively participating in the war in Syria on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He also stated in his resignation he feared a similar fate to his father, the country’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in a 2005 car bombing blamed on Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia wants Hezbollah’s influence on Lebanese society diminished and has actively tried to strengthen the country’s army as a counterweight to Iranian influence in recent years.
With contributions from Reuters