(photo credit: AP [file])
The Egyptian president and Russia's foreign minister on Saturday called for the containment of political upheaval in Lebanon, warning of the potential for widespread violence to erupt.
Their meeting came a day after Friday's mass protests in Beirut that drew hundreds of thousands of supporters of the Shiite militant Hizbullah group.
Saniora won't quit despite pressure
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told journalists after receiving Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Saturday at Sharm el-Sheik that he was concerned Lebanon's neighbors could be drawn into the conflict between Lebanese political forces.
"I'm afraid that if the protests continue, and take a sectarian hue, supporters of various sects from outside Lebanon will get in ... and Lebanon will turn into a battlefield," Mubarak said.
"If Iran supports Hizbullah, other countries might support Saniora's camp and that will lead to the dangers of which I'm warning," he added.
Lavrov expressed concern that current tensions could lead to a civil war.
"It is necessary to attain the principal goal: to prevent a civil war erupting in Lebanon. To this end, we are maintaining regular dialogue with both the Lebanese government and the neighboring countries, including Syria," Lavrov said at a press conference, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.
"It is crucial to be guided by the Lebanese people's interests and not to allow opportunistic gambling on the situation that has taken shape there," Lavrov said.
Moscow and Cairo "are unanimous in the opinion that all problems concerning Lebanon need to be resolved on the basis of international law, respect for the Lebanese constitution, and bearing in mind the decisions made by the UN Security Council," the Russian foreign minister said.
Mubarak said that he send a letter to parliament speaker Nabih Berri who is also the leader of Hizbullah's ally the Shiite party Amal to open dialogue with the government.
"I asked Berri to be flexible and to solve the crisis without protests which will make the situation more difficult," Mubarak added.
Hizbullah and its allies demand a third of the seats in Saniora's Cabinet - enough to veto its decisions - and have vowed to continue their campaign until the government falls. They cite Lebanon's constitution, which says the Cabinet should represent all the country's religious groups.
Saniora and his supporters call the campaign a coup attempt led by neighboring Syria and its ally Iran, a stance echoed by Washington.