Top Lebanese Druze politician Walid Jumblatt said on Friday it was time that Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on Saturday while in Saudi Arabia, returned to Lebanon.Jumblatt said in a Twitter post that after a week of absence from Lebanon, "be it forced or voluntary", it was "time for Sheikh Saad to return". "By the way, there is no alternative to him," he added.
Hariri read out his resignation on television from Saudi Arabia on Saturday, citing assassination fears and denouncing Iran and Hezbollah for sowing strife in Arab states.
Jumblatt is the leading figure in Lebanon's small but influential Druze community and has often played the role of kingmaker in the country's political deal-making.
Two top Lebanese government officials told Reuters on Thursday that they believed Saudi Arabia was holding Hariri.
A third source, a senior politician close to Saudi-allied Hariri, said Saudi Arabia had ordered him to resign and put him under house arrest. A fourth source familiar with the situation said Saudi Arabia was controlling and limiting his movement.
Riyadh has denied reports that he is under house arrest.
On Thursday, in a televised statement indicating deep concern at Hariri's situation, his Future Movement political party said his return home was necessary to uphold the Lebanese system, describing him as prime minister and a national leader.
France believes Hariri free of movements in Saudi
France's foreign minister said on Friday he believed that former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri was not under house arrest in Saudi Arabia and did not have any particular constraints on his movements.
"As far as we know, yes. We think he is free of his movements and it's important he makes his own choices," Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.
France's ambassador to Saudi met Hariri on Thursday before President Emmanuel Macron's unscheduled visit to Riyadh to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, diplomats said. It was unclear whether Macron had any contact with Hariri during his stopover in the Saudi capital.
Paris has close ties with Lebanon, a former colony, and with Hariri, who has a home in France after spending several years in the country. Macron said in Dubai on Thursday there had been informal contacts with Hariri, but no request to transfer him to France.
"Our concern is the stability of Lebanon and that a political solution can be put in place rapidly," he added.
Le Drian is due in Saudi Arabia on November 16 and is scheduled to also travel to Iran later in the month.