BEIRUT: Lebanon's Saad 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.
Earlier, Saad Al Hariri attended independence day celebrations in Beirut on Wednesday after returning to Lebanon for the first time since resigning as prime minister in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia.
Hariri, whose sudden resignation on November 4 pitched Lebanon into crisis, flew into Beirut late on Tuesday. He stood alongside President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at a military parade in central Beirut.
Lebanese state officials and senior politicians close to Hariri say Riyadh forced him to quit and held him in the kingdom, which Saudi Arabia and Hariri have denied. The resignation took even Hariri's aides by surprise.
A long-time Saudi ally, Hariri cited fear of assassination in his resignation speech, and attacked Iran and its powerful Lebanese Shiite ally Hezbollah for sowing strife in the Arab world.
The resignation thrust Lebanon to the forefront of regional tussle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs Hezbollah.
Hariri's return to Lebanon followed an intervention by France. It is not yet clear if he will stick by his resignation or rescind it. Ahead of his arrival on Tuesday, Hariri said he would declare his "political position" in Beirut.
Aoun has said he will not consider Hariri's resignation until he returned to Beirut and delivered it in person. Hariri is expected to meet Aoun at the presidential palace later on Wednesday.
Hariri left Riyadh for Paris at the weekend. He journeyed back to Beirut on Tuesday, stopping in Egypt and Cyprus.
The resignation shook the power-sharing deal that brought him to office last year and resulted in Aoun, a Hezbollah political ally, becoming head of state.
Hezbollah, a heavily armed military and political movement, is part of the Lebanese government.
Hariri returned to his home country late Tuesday.
His plane touched down at Beirut international airport shortly before midnight, a statement from his office said.
His resignation shocked Lebanese, but Hariri’s prolonged stay in Saudi proved even more mysterious for many and sparked a litany of accusations that he was being held hostage there.
Hariri had promised he would return to Lebanon in time to mark its 47th Independence Day on Wednesday and would clarify his position there.
On Tuesday, he travelled to Cairo to see Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, whom he thanked for his support for Lebanon.
Hours later, Hariri flew from the Egyptian capital Cairo to Larnaca in Cyprus where he met late at night with President Nicos Anastasiades, the Cyprus government spokesman said.
After a brief visit he flew on to Beirut, where he is expected to take part in the independence day military parade early Wednesday and the customary reception at the presidential palace.
Hariri’s Future Movement called on supporters to gather at his home in downtown Beirut at 1pm local time (3pm UAE).
A dual Saudi citizen who has previously enjoyed Riyadh’s backing, Hariri resigned in a mysterious broadcast from the Saudi capital, accusing arch-rival Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilising his country.
But President Michel Aoun has yet to accept Hariri’s resignation, insisting that he present it in person once back in the Lebanese capital.
During Hariri’s two-week stay in Riyadh, Aoun accused Saudi authorities of holding him “hostage” and demanded that he enjoy freedom of movement.
After mediation efforts by Egypt and France — which held former mandate power over Lebanon — the 47-year-old premier left Riyadh on Saturday.
He headed to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and pledged he would be home by Wednesday.
“As you know I have resigned, and we will discuss that in Lebanon,” he said.
Hariri’s resignation from outside the country is unprecedented in Lebanese history.
Questions remain over whether the resignation will stand, forcing negotiations on a new government, or if he might withdraw the decision.