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Wednesday September 18th, 2019 5:25AM

The Latest: Macron invites Lebanese PM to France

By The Associated Press
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BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the crisis in Lebanon following Prime Minister Saad Hariri's surprise resignation earlier this month (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Saad Hariri and his family to come to France after the Lebanese prime minister's surprise resignation earlier this month, amid allegations that Saudi Arabia is holding him prisoner.

Macron's office said in a statement Wednesday that he made the decision after speaking to Hariri and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Earlier Wednesday, Lebanon's president accused Saudi Arabia of detaining Hariri and asked U.N. Security Council nations and European governments to intervene.

France, Lebanon's onetime colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate in the crisis, and Macron paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia last week. Hariri's family has longtime connections to France.

___

7 p.m.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri's older brother has broken his silence over the premier's mysterious resignation, saying he supports his brother's decision.

In his first public statement, Bahaa Hariri blasted Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.

The statement from Bahaa Hariri's office was sent to The Associated Press Wednesday. In it, the elder Hariri accuses Hezbollah of seeking "to take control of Lebanon." He also expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for "decades of support" for Lebanon's national institutions.

Bahaa Hariri's name has been mentioned in Lebanese media reports as a possible Saudi-backed candidate to replace his brother, who announced his resignation from the Saudi capital on Nov. 4.

In a phone call with the AP Wednesday, Bahaa Hariri declined to comment further.

___

3:15 p.m.

Lebanon's president says Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been detained in Saudi Arabia in an act of "aggression" against his country.

Speaking to Lebanese media executives Wednesday, President Michel Aoun expressed his frustration at the continued absence of Hariri, 12 days after he resigned from Saudi Arabia in a televised speech that stunned the country.

Aoun accused Saudi Arabia of detaining Hariri and limiting his contacts, calling it a "hostile act against Lebanon."

He noted that as prime minister Hariri had immunity, saying his detention is in violation of international law. Saudi Arabia has denied detaining Hariri.

Aoun said Lebanon has the right to take measures to ensure Hariri is released and able to return. He said all Arab mediations have failed, adding that he has asked members of the U.N. Security Council and other European nations to get involved.

The French foreign minister is expected in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

___

12:30 p.m.

Lebanon's president says the country's prime minister is a detainee of Saudi Arabia after Saad Hariri's surprise resignation from the kingdom almost two weeks ago.

Wednesday's comments mark the first time President Michel Aoun has accused the kingdom of detaining Hariri.

Aoun, in an escalation, called it a violation of international laws. The rhetoric further deepens the crisis with Saudi Arabia.

Hariri resigned 12 days ago in a shocking televised address from Riyadh that plunged his country into turmoil. In a televised interview from the kingdom, Hariri pledged to come back but didn't give a specific date.

The head of Future TV, affiliated with Hariri's party, says the prime minister is expected back before Sunday, when Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo in an emergency session at Saudi Arabia's urging.

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