US diplomat arrives for talks on Lebanese presidential deadlock

A senior US diplomat arrived unexpectedly in Lebanon on Tuesday, a day after its sharply divided parliament failed for the ninth time to elect a president amid a serious political crisis. The previously unannounced visit by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch - his second to Beirut in three days - highlighted mounting international concerns over Lebanon's inability to fill the top post, left vacant after pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud stepped down on Nov. 23. Welch first met with Saad Hariri, head of anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, the state-run National News Agency reported, giving no other details. Later, he held talks with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, whose Western-backed government has been locked for more than a year in a fierce power struggle with the opposition, led by the Syria and Iran backed Hizbullah group.