President George W. Bush warned Syria Thursday against interfering in Lebanon's presidential elections, and said he is sending the US's top military commander in the Middle East to Beirut to see how Washington could do more to help Lebanon fight extremists.
"The United States strongly supports the success of democracy in Lebanon," Bush said after meeting with Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon's parliament. "The United States is more than just an admirer. We want to help as best as we possibly can."
The Lebanese parliament failed last week to elect a president because of a boycott by the Syrian-backed opposition. Lawmakers have been unsuccessful so far in efforts to reach agreement on a consensus candidate between the pro-government camp and the opposition. The anti-Syrian coalition is led by US-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, also a close ally of Hariri, and the opposition is led by the Syria-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hizbullah.
"I am deeply concerned about foreign interference in your elections," Bush told Hariri, adding that many nations have called on Syria to stay out. "We expect Syria to honor that demand," he said.
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