Lebanese leader holds talks with Syria's Assad

Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri discussed with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday a proposal to invite rival Lebanese leaders for talks to end the country's political crisis.

Lebanese leader holds talks with Syria's Assad
The crisis, the worst since the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war, has left Lebanon without a president since November and soured relations between regional rivals Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Syria's official SANA news agency reported the meeting between Assad and Berri, a key member of the Syrian-backed opposition but gave no details. A Lebanese political source said the talks focused on Berri's proposal to initiate direct dialogue between the rival parties.

Berri was quoted by Beirut's pro-Syrian as-Safir daily as saying that he would go on two "important visits" to Damascus and Riyadh for talks with the Syrian and Saudi leaderships."

"Based on the results of these two visits and my internal communications ... I will decide on the next move on the issue of the dialogue," he said.

The 16-month-old crisis has also caused repeated delays to the presidential election which are now scheduled for April 22.

The anti-Syrian government boycotted the recent Arab summit in Damascus.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan sent low level delegations in a snub to Syria and in solidarity with the government.

Syria promised Arab leaders at the summit it would cooperate in ending the crisis, while Saudi Arabia said it saw Damascus as part of the solution.

While the rivals have agreed that army chief General Michel Suleiman should be president, his confirmation by parliament has been held up due to a dispute over the shape of his government and the law governing a general election set for 2009.

Berri said the talks were preliminarily set for April 18-21.

"And if we don't agree we will postpone the elections and continue the dialogue until we reach a comprehensive deal," Berri said.

Berri had chaired two rounds of talks between the ruling coalition and the opposition in 2006 but the talks failed to settle all the differences between the two sides.
Last Mod: 07 Nisan 2008, 17:04
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