Saudi, Syrian leaders visit Lebanon

Assad and Abdullah try to quell tensions over Hariri tribunal.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
July 30, 2010 17:50
1 minute read.
Saudi King Abdullah, left, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, talk to each other as they step

Assad Abdullah 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

BEIRUT  — The leaders of Syria and Saudi Arabia launched an unprecedented effort Friday to defuse fears of violence over upcoming indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri — the son of the slain statesman — and President Michel Suleiman were at the airport as Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad stepped off the plane together. It was a strong public show of cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Syria, which for years vied for influence over Lebanon.

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Many fear that new violence between Lebanon's Shiite and Sunni communities could break out if the international tribunal investigating Hariri's death implicates Hizbullah, which is Syria's main ally in Lebanon.

In May 2008, Hizbullah gunmen swept through Sunni pro-government neighborhoods of Beirut, raising fears the country could fall into a new civil war. That crisis was resolved only after fellow Arab countries mediated a truce and political compromise between the two sides that has tenuously held since.

Hariri was a Sunni leader with strong links to Saudi Arabia. The international tribunal investigating Hariri's death has not announced who will be charged, but the leader of Hizbullah said last week members of his group will be among those indicted.

Security was tight throughout Beirut on Friday as helicopters buzzed overhead. No details were released about Friday's one-day summit, although Hizbullah Cabinet ministers were also expected to take part.




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