Lebanon's Hariri holds talks with Egypt President Sisi in Cairo

Lebanese PM will return to Beirut

Hariri's mysterious decision to step down - which Aoun has refused to accept while he remains overseas - has raised fears over Lebanon's fragile democracy.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was to meet Tuesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo before heading back Wednesday to Beirut - the first time he will have set foot in Lebanon since his abrupt resignation on November 4 while on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Aoun spoke in a televised speech on the eve of the country's independence day celebrations.

The Independence Day ceremony is usually headed by the president, prime minister and parliament speaker, and Hariri's presence could help calm uncertainties.

Hariri is widely believed to have been compelled to resign by his Saudi patrons, who appear determined to curtail the power of the radical Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, Iran's ally, in Lebanon.

Macron had leveraged France's close relations with both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to secure a deal that saw Hariri travel to Paris and open the door to a resolution of the crisis.

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He told reporters in Paris: "As you know I have resigned and we will speak about this matter there (Lebanon)".

This appeared to mark the manifestation of Saudi foreign policy objectives through coercion - through Hariri, it aims to isolate Hezbollah and push it out of war zones like Syria and Yemen where the Islamic kingdom has its own interests.

Hariri's political status remains murky.

The complexity of clashing agendas around the locked-in feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran could well defeat Macron's efforts, say analysts, especially if the 32-year-old Saudi crown prince is determined to use Lebanon as another front in efforts to curb Iran's growing regional influence. It said in its Tuesday edition that French and Egyptian officials discussed Lebanon's future in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on the sidelines of el-Sissi's visit to the European Union member Mediterranean island nation.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, is a long-time ally of Saudi Arabia. He plans to discuss threats against Israel from Iran and its Lebanese proxy terror group, Hezbollah. The White House said the leaders agreed on the need to work with allies to counter Hezbollah's and Iran's destabilizing activities in the region.


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