|Saad Hariri returns to Lebanon after three years||
Former premier Saad Hariri arrived back in Lebanon Friday after three years and went straight into a meeting with current Prime Minister Tammam Salam, his office said.
With no prior announcement, Hariri arrived at the Lebanese government's headquarters in Beirut and according to local media, Hariri stated that he will stay in Lebanon “for a while.”
Hariri's return comes two days after he announced that Saudi King Abdullah had promised him Riyadh would provide Lebanon's army, battling terrorists on the Syrian border, with one billion dollars "to strengthen security."
Riyadh announced a $1 billion grant earlier this week to help the Lebanese Army fight the growing threat of terrorism, following days of clashes between the Army and militants from Syria in the northeastern town of Arsal.
"My return comes after the Saudi donation which requires seeing how it can be implemented and translated into support for the army," Hariri said on his Twitter account.
The Twitter account also said Hariri's first stop would be at the grave of his father, Rafik al-Hariri, another former Lebanese prime minister whose assassination in 2005 forced Saad to enter political life.
Asked whether he had received guarantees for his safety, Hariri, surrounded by a number of journalists, said, "God protects us all."
The Future Movement leader had left Lebanon shortly after the collapse of his unity government when Hezbollah and its allies quit the Cabinet in January of 2011. He has been residing in Saudi Arabia since April 2011, citing security concerns.
Future Movement official and political adviser Rached Fayed commented on Hariri’s surprise return to Lebanon by saying “he has come to stay.”
Fayed said the Saudi $1 billion grant was coupled with a practical plan to confront terrorism, and “Hariri’s return is part of this plan aimed at reinforcing the moderate Sunni trend.”
“Hariri came back to tilt the balance toward moderation. His return is a must and need for his political opponents more than his allies,” Fayed said.
Hariri has been in self-imposed exile between France and Saudi Arabia since 2011 “out of security fears.”
According to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA), Hariri received at the "Center House" a number of ministers who congratulated him on his safe return to Beirut.
He also sat down with the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale in the presence of Hariri's Chief of Staff Nader Hariri. Ambassador Hale left without giving any statement.
Earlier, Hariri received a phone call from Speaker Nabih Berri and Former President Amine Gemayel, who congratulated him on his safe return to Lebanon.
Gunmen pull out of Ersal
Hariri's visit follows a deadly incursion by militants who crossed from Syria and seized the town of Ersal in the northeast last Saturday. The gunmen withdrew from the town on Wednesday after five days of battles with the army.
Rocket fire, suicide attacks and gun battles connected to Syria's war have plagued Lebanon and the conflict has worsened the perennial political deadlock in the Mediterranean country, with officials divided largely along sectarian lines.
The deadlock has left Lebanon without a president since May, when incumbent Michel Suleiman's term expired.
The coastal city of Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city and a support base for Hariri, has seen regular skirmishes between militiamen.
Residents in Tripoli offered candy to passersby in celebration while others cruised along roads in Akkar and Beirut with Hariri's pictures and the Future Movement's blue flag plastered on their vehicles, honking and cheering for their leader's return.
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