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Arab League chief meets rival Lebanese again as crisis casts shadow on Arab summit in Damascus

Arab League chief meets rival Lebanese again as crisis casts shadow on Arab summit in Damascus

The Arab League chief on Monday again brought together feuding Lebanese pro-government and opposition leaders, in a new attempt to break the deadlock on electing the country's president that is reportedly threatening an upcoming Arab summit in Syria.
The meeting came just hours after a previous, four-hour one ended shortly after midnight Sunday, without any breakthrough in Lebanon's deepening political crisis.
The crisis over the election of Lebanon's head of state has compounded a yearlong fierce power struggle between the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the opposition led by the militant Hezbollah group.
League chief Amr Moussa's visit coincided with a weekend meeting in Riyadh between the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both Arab heavyweights and Saniora government supporters.
The pan-Arab, Saudi-owned Al Hayat newspaper reported Monday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah stressed the need to elect a Lebanese president before the Arab summit scheduled in Damascus, Syria, in late March.
Lebanese As-Safir daily, which is close to the opposition, said the two called for a "breakthrough" in the crisis before the summit.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have also previously called on Syria, which wields great influence over Lebanese opposition allies, to facilitate the presidential vote.
The United States and the anti-Syrian coalition in Lebanon have accused Syria of blocking the presidential election. Damascus has denied the charge.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned last month that the summit's success hinged largely on the Lebanese presidential issue being resolved.
Arab media have speculated that Cairo and Riyadh _ allegedly with U.S. encouragement _ have threatened to boycott the summit as a way of pressuring Syria to make concessions in Lebanon.
Syrian government newspaper al-Thawra said in an editorial Monday that Damascus would spare no effort over the summit, and was "optimistic the attendance of all Arab leaders ... would be the clearest response to all attempts to interfere" in the matter.
Monday's talks in Beirut mediated by Moussa brought together Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and ally former President Amin Gemayel on one side, and opposition leader Michel Aoun on the other.
It is the fourth such meeting arranged by Moussa, who has visited Lebanon several times to try to push for an Arab plan to end the crisis and elect Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as a compromise candidate for president to fill a post vacant since President Emile Lahoud's term ended last November.
Adopted unanimously by Arab foreign ministers in Cairo last month, the plan also calls for a national unity government and the adoption of a new electoral law.
But the sharply divided parliament has so far failed to elect Suleiman. The majority and the opposition also remain at odds over the future government. The parliament majority has strongly rejected the Syrian-backed opposition's demand for veto power in the future Cabinet.
With Lebanon deeply mired in its worst political crisis since the end of its 1975-90 civil war, a parliament session to elect Suleiman set for Tuesday is likely to be postponed again _ the 15th such delay in three months.


Updated : 2021-08-01 01:30 GMT+08:00