Middle East News
Syria split means Lebanon will send two delegations to Arab summit
Mar 26, 2007, 13:51 GMT
Beirut - Lebanon will send two separate delegations to the Arab summit in Riyadh, reflecting the deep political division in the country over relations with Syria, a government source said Monday.
Two delegations would be formed - one headed by pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and another represented by the Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Seniora - to attend the gathering on Wednesday.
'Unless a miracle takes places to solve the ongoing crisis in the coming few hours, one delegation will be going to the summit, but this is unlikely to happen,' the source added.
Lahoud was initially invited to the summit as Lebanon's head of state. But, after Saudi efforts failed to resolve the rift between the country's pro-Syrian opposition and the anti-Syrian majority in parliament in the run up to the summit, an invitation was extended to Seniora.
Seniora, who enjoys wide Arab backing, has seen the invitation as a recognition to the legitimacy of his government that is not recognised by the opposition.
Lebanon has been locked in a political feud since the opposition began calling on Seniora's cabinet to resign and form a national unity government that grants the opposition a veto power.
The anti-Syrian camp backed by Seniora has refused such a request, accusing the opposition of acting under pressure from Syria to paralyze the political institutions in order to scupper the establishment of an international tribunal on the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.
They blame Syria and its allies in Lebanon for Hariri's death that triggered domestic and international protests which forced Syria on April 26, 2005 to remove its 30-year military presence from its smaller neighbour.
Damascus denies any link with the Hariri assassination, but an ongoing UN probe in the Hariri case has implicated Syrian and Lebanese officers in the killing.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Monday that there was a chance of reconciliation in Lebanon, that 'parties will put their country's interest above everything else'
Pro-Syrian leaders continued their criticism of the ruling majority, with Lahoud accusing Hariri's son Saad Hariri, who head of parliament's majority, of working closely with French President Jacques Chirac in wrapping the truth and moulding the outcome to suit his interests.
On their part, Syria's closest allies in Lebanon, Hezbollah, said that the ruling anti-Syrian majority had no choice but to accept real participation in a national unity government.
'The ruling camp is delusional if it thinks it can govern the country based on its ambitions..,' said Hezbollah MP Moahmmed Raad.
Raad also blamed the anti-Syrian camp of obstructing any progress in the recent Saudi Arabian efforts to end Lebanon's crisis, adding that the ruling camp's refusal to grant the opposition a blocking minority in a national unity government will only delay any settlement.
Raad stressed that Lebanon will soon be entering a waiting period anticipating the outcomes of two events. The first he said is the Arab summit, and the second is the meeting on Iraq, scheduled in Istanbul, Turkey, which 'may have negative or positive repercussions on the Lebanese crisis.'
Lebanon's crisis has raised fears of the country being plunged back to the kind of chaos that prevailed during the 1975-1990 civil war.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Arab state which backs the Seniora government, and Iran, which supports the opposition headed by Hezbollah, held talks few weeks ago in an effort to curb confessional disputes in Lebanon.
'In these worrisome days, we are in need of cooperation and solidarity to confront the crisis,' said the head of the Lebanese Christian community, Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir.
'It is as if Lebanon has, in fact, become two countries, each with its orientation, purposes and goals,' said Sfeir.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur